Infertility may be linked to taste genes

Fertility and taste receptors in your tongue don't seem like elements that would ever be associated with one another.  However, new research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia has found that genes involved in the ability to taste sweet and savory flavors may play a key role in sperm production. The study determined that one of our taste receptors – TAS1R3 – and a molecule that sends signals to the brain – GNAT3 – were both found in the testicles and sperm of mice.  When these genes were manipulated, the mice became sterile.

In this study, scientists engineered mice to possess the human form of the TAS1R3 receptor, but to not have the mouse versions of the taste gene, as well as the GNAT3 transmitter genes.  The mice were then given a drug to inhibit TAS1R3, which resulted in the mice becoming sterile due to malformed and fewer sperm. Once the drug was stopped and the receptor was re-engaged, the mice became fertile again.

The drug used for this study was called clofibrate, which is frequently prescribed to treat lipid disorders, such as high blood cholesterol or high triglycerides.  TAS1R3 genes can also be blocked through the use of a widely available weedkiller known as phenoxy-herbicides.

These discoveries could provide a significant step forward in identifying and treating infertility in men. The scientists also noted that this could help lead to a non-hormonal male contraceptive.

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