‘Supermice’ With Super-Sperm May Lead To Fertility Treatment

By Amir Khan on October 10, 2012 10:43 AM EDT

mouse
"Supermice" with extra high sperm counts have invaded Western Europe, causing not only a population boom, but also a potential treatment for men with low-sperm counts (Photo: Creative Commons)

"Supermice" with extra high sperm counts have invaded Western Europe, causing not only a population boom, but also a potential treatment for men with low-sperm counts, according to a new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The mice are a product of crossbreeding between the Eastern European house mouse and Western European house mouse, and while crossbreeding normally results in decreased sperm strength and motility, male offspring of the two have "super-sperm," with higher than average counts.

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The new mice are thriving in the Czech Republic and Germany, and researchers said the mice could lead to a new fertility treatment for men.

"It seems likely the genetic variants which have been uncovered in nature by our work will be taken and bred into lab mice so that their precise effects can be teased apart under controlled conditions," Stuart J.E. Baird, study author and an evolutionary biologist at the University of Porto in Portugal, told LiveScience.

Researchers trapped 212 mice in Eastern Europe and tested their sperm motility and sperm count. They also tested to see whether they were Eastern, Western or a hybrid. They found that Western mice that picked up an Eastern Y chromosome had higher sperm counts than mice with the original Y.

"We showed how the eastern males' Y chromosome has crossed the front, replacing the Y chromosome in 'native' western mice," Baird said. "It could invade because western males carrying the invading Y have higher sperm counts."

The high sperm counts could only be the beginning of the effects, Baird said.

"One possibility is that this is just the first of a cascade of effects we will see as the barrier between the species is broken down," he said.

Researchers said they will continue to study the mice, and said they are interested to see what occurs down the line.

"Our team and others are there to watch what happens," Baird said. "The Y chromosome invasion is perhaps the most exciting finding yet - but what happens next for hybridization of the mice?"

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