Scientists identify the spark of life
Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002
By Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent, www.timesonline.co.uk
BRITISH scientists have discovered the gene that provides the spark of life, when an egg is fertilised by a sperm, in research that promises dramatic advances in fertility treatment and stem cell experiments.
A ten-year study has revealed that the gene in sperm triggers the crucial process by which an egg starts dividing to form an embryo, solving a mystery that has confounded medical science for two centuries.
The breakthrough, by researchers at the University of Wales College of Medicine in Cardiff and University College, London, paves the way for improved therapy for infertile couples and treatments that use cloned stem cells to tackle Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes.
Scientists believe it will eventually allow them to fertilise eggs using sperm that have previously been considered useless, and to transform success rates in therapeutic cloning.
It has long been known that fertilisation is followed by a surge of calcium but the molecules that start this process have remained elusive.
“We’re thrilled to be at the forefront of such an exciting discovery,” Professor Tony Lai, head of the Cardiff team, said. “The potential benefits to medicine are immense.”
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