Frozen mice sperm allowed Dr. Wei Yan and his team of researchers to identify why some sperm are created without heads.
Dr. Yan has studied male infertility for more than 20 years. He does this in the hopes of finding the elusive key to inventing male contraceptives.
Dr. Yan's recent discovery lies in a mutation in a gene called spata 6. If that gene has a mutation, it causes a deformity in the necks of sperm. That deformity makes it impossible for sperm to support their heads, so they fall off. "1 out of 20 adult men in their reproductive age experience infertility and headless sperm probably accounts for a small portion but headless sperm, this phenomenon is not rare. So in infertility patients, male infertility patients, headless sperm are quite common."
Healthy sperm swim vigorously. They will likely go on to fertilize an egg. The end result will be a baby.
Headless sperm barely move or go in circles. Dr. Yan says it's impossible for headless sperm to reach an egg. The end result is frustration and sadness for the couple trying to get pregnant. "We look for the reasons of infertility and at the same time once we identify the reasons we can utilize the mechanism to develop contraceptives."
Dr. Yan wants to take his discovery one step further. He's created a male contraceptive pill that targets spata 6, purposefully creating headless sperm. Once a man is ready to conceive a child, he goes off the pill, spata 6 is no longer targeted, and sperm are allowed to fully develop.
Needless to say, some life changing research going on right here in Reno.