A team of Japanese researchers have shed light on the development process of male and female reproductive cells. It seems that a gene controls the fate of germ cells, their common precursor through a “genetic switch”.
The scientific research was conducted at Japan’s National Institute for Basic Biology by biologist Toshiya Nishimura and his team and was performed on medaka fish, commonly known as the Japanese rice fish. Specifically, their study focused on the behavior of germ cells in these small fish.
They have identified a gene called foxl3 that actively controls if a germ cell develops into a sperm, the male reproductive cell or an egg, the female reproductive cell.
They have discovered that this gene is presents in the germ cells of female fish, because it has the capacity of prohibiting germ cells to develop into sperm cells. This means that the males do not need this gene, as their germ cells are free to grow into sperm cells.
Prior to this research, scientists believed that germ cells would develop into either male or female reproductive cells in accordance with some outside influence from surrounding cells. The exact process of this however remained unknown.
Germ cells are present in the vertebrate series, therefore this fish study might lead to a similar study being performed on humans or research models consistent with the conditions in the human body.
Humans do not have the foxl3 gene however, at least not in the same form. But after this scientific breakthrough in fish reproduction, scientists will know what to search for in human genetics.
In order to test out his theory, Toshiya Nishimura and his team conducted an additional experiment. They have inactivated the foxl3 gene in female medaka fish to see what happens with germ cells in their body without the influence of the gene.
Their theory was confirmed as the germ cells developed into sperm cells inside the female ovaries. Furthermore, the scientists tested the potency of these sperm cells as well and they observed that they were able to fertilize eggs that even lead to healthy offspring.
Thus, their assessment of the role of the foxl3 gene on the germ cells has been confirmed. This discovery has been a long time coming and it has paved the way for an abundance of research to be conducted in the future. It seems that we are closer than ever to finding out the exact processes that occur along the path of our reproduction.
Image Source: womenshealthmag.com