Scientists have found the gene that controls a first vital step in creating new life.
The HIRA gene, according to Nature, is involved in events needed for fertilisation to take place once a sperm enters an egg cell.
Although the researchers from France and the UK worked on fruit flies, the same processes occur in humans — so faults in this gene may explain why some couples have difficulty getting pregnant even if their sperm is healthy.
“All sexually reproducing animals do the same kind of DNA ‘dance’ when the DNA from the mother’s egg cell and the father’s sperm cell meet for the first time,” said Dr Tim Karr in the journal.
On entering the egg, the sperm’s DNA must transform so that it can join the female DNA to form a new life. This transformation, regulated by the HIRA gene is done by repackaging or swapping the histone proteins the sperm DNA contains. In the process a pronucleus is formed which then combines with the female pronucleus.
“A single gene, HIRA, looks after this re-packaging process, making it fundamental for those first 15 minutes in the regeneration of a new life,” said Karr.
“This is one of the most crucial process that takes place in sexually reproducing animals.