Juno and Izumo, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. A new power couple in infertility has arrived, and they need to hook up for you to get knocked up. A new article in the science journal Nature describes how Juno, a protein on a female's egg, can be an aid or a roadblock to pregnancy in animals and humans.
Juno is named after the Roman goddess of fertility and marriage. It is a protein on the surface of the egg that is made to interact with the protein on the sperm, which has been named Izumo after a Japanese marriage shrine. Juno and Izumo need to recognize each other before the fusing of the two can happen.
Scientists believe that a simple genetic test can be developed to determine whether the proteins are present or missing in infertile couples. This is a major breakthrough in the fertility world, especially because up to 20 percent of infertile couples are never given a solid diagnosis for why they cannot get pregnant. Instead of being grouped into the dreaded "unexplained infertility" category, some of these couples may learn that Juno, Izumo, or both are missing from the conception equation.
If a couple know they are missing the necessary proteins, they could skip past natural pregnancy planning, intrauterine insemination (IUI) or traditional in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts. Couples with missing proteins would not get pregnant on their own, and IUIs or traditional IVFs rely on the sperm and egg recognizing and fusing, which would not happen without Juno or Izumo. Instead, couples could jump right to IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection, which is when the sperm is directly injected into the egg. This procedure takes the recognizing and fusing out of the picture and could save couples years of disappointment, not to mention tens of thousands of dollars.
Juno and Izumo are still a relatively new couple, but a powerful one. Keep your eyes peeled for more news about these proteins. You might see the results of this study in your fertility doctor's office sooner than later.