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Researchers have uncovered a previously unknown cause of male fertility men who lack a certain protein that coats sperm and allows them to enter an egg more easily are more likely to be unable to get their partners pregnant! The new study was published in the journal Translational Medicine, and explains that the protein is created by one particular gene. Interestingly, those men who have two copies of the defective gene don't make the protein.

The study team took a detailed look at 500 couples in China who were trying to conceive without any success. The couples where the male partner possessed two copies of the defective gene were found to have a 30 percent increased chance of fertility problems, and were much less likely to get their partner pregnant within two years of trying. Those who did get pregnant, even with two copies of the said gene, took an average of two months longer to conceive. While the study team made it clear that the exact connection between this gene and male fertility is not yet certain, the missing protein certainly seems to make achieving pregnancy more difficult and in some cases perhaps not possible.

Lead author on this study, Gerry Cherr, said: "Our data suggests a likelihood or probability that couples are unable to conceive in the twelve-months window will increase significantly if men lack the normal gene." Cherr is a professor of environmental toxicology and nutrition at the University of California, and he added that a lack of the protein alone is probably no reason to believe a man is infertile. Other factors, like sperm count, motility and morphology are also important and they all contribute to the whole picture of a man's fertility. This is certainly fascinating news and something that couples who have been struggling to get pregnant may like to keep in mind.

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