Israeli researchers say new treatment could boost fertility in women and men

Scientists say single dose of compound developed at Ben-Gurion University could speed up egg maturation and ovulation

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A lab at Ben-Gurion University (Courtesy)
A lab at Ben-Gurion University (Courtesy)

Israeli researchers say they may have found a new compound that can help boost fertility in both men and women.

BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of Ben-Gurion University (BGU), said this week that researchers at the university are developing a new, single-dose fertility treatment based on a new compound they have developed.

The technology, called “groundbreaking” by the firm, was developed by Prof. Esther Priel and her research group, at BGU’s Faculty of Health Sciences in consultation with the In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Laboratory at the Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba.

At the tip of a human’s DNA chromosomes there is an area in which reside telomers, which define the lifespan of cells. As people age and experience degenerative diseases, these telomers get shorter. A shorter lifespan of the telomers also induces infertility.

“They are our biological clock,” Dr. Ora Horovitz, Senior Vice President of Business Development at BGN Technologies said by phone. “If you can come up with a compound that can prevent shortening, you can get an anti-aging product, or in the case of degenerative diseases, it could be a way to reverse degeneration.”

Telomerase is the enzyme that is responsible for the maintenance of the telomers. The new treatment, developed by the BGU researchers, stimulates the expression of the telomerase and re-elongates the telomeres, protecting the cells from damage. This increases cell viability and the likelihood of fertilization and embryo generation and implantation, the researchers said.

The treatment is applied as a single dose, and dissipates within 24 hours. The compound, made up of molecules, was tested on mice and showed no toxic effects in animal studies.

“We’ve evaluated the efficacy of the new compound in mice and found that a single dose greatly improves fertility in both female and male mice,” said Priel. “One dose speeds up egg maturation and ovulation, increases the number of ovulated eggs, and results in a larger number of viable offspring.”

“The compound also showed a protective effect on ovaries and testes of mice undergoing radiation, suggesting that it might be able to protect and improve the fertility of women and men undergoing radiation therapy for cancer,” she added.

The compound is part of a number of telomerase-activating compounds on which the researchers are working on that were found to affect several degenerative diseases.

“The promising preclinical results and especially the fact that a single dose was sufficient to demonstrate the efficacy of the compound could lead to a highly accessible treatment option,” Horovitz said. “We are now seeking collaboration for further development of this promising treatment towards human clinical trials and commercialization.”

The global fertility services market is expected to exceed $21 billion by 2020, according to a report published by Technavio.

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