Magazine article Science News

Fertility Factor from the Mouths of Mice

Magazine article Science News

Fertility Factor from the Mouths of Mice

Article excerpt

Fertility factor from the mouths of mice

Biology textbooks indicate that the hormones controlling the development of sperm come from two places--the testes themselves, and the pituitary and hypothalamus glands at the base of the brain. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have come up with a new locale, at least for mice--the submandibular gland, which lies beneath the tongue and in humans is what swells during mumps.

The submandibular gland produces a substance called epidermal growth factor (EGF), one of about a dozen known growth factors. While EGF stimulates growth of some cells in culture, until now its role in the body has been a mystery.

Osamu Tsutsumi, Hirohisa Kurachi and Takami Oka of NIH removed the submandibular glands of male mice. While the animals' testosterone levels did not fall and their behavior did not change, EGF dropped to unmeasurable levels and the number of mature sperm dropped to about half the level of mice that underwent "sham' operations, with their glands left intact. The researchers then injected the glandless mice with either EGF or another growth factor produced by the submandibular gland. Only EGF restored the sperm levels, they report in the Aug. 29 SCIENCE. EGF, they suggest, could be absorbed from the saliva into the blood via the digestive tract. …

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