Science & Tech

U of O researchers studied specific gene mutations in the model organism zebrafish. Photo: U of O/Provided

New hormone could lead to novel infertility treatments in humans

Researchers at the University of Ottawa, Kimberly Mitchell and Vance Trudeau have discovered a new hormone by studying specific gene mutations in the model organism zebrafish (Danio rerio). The researchers found that gene knockout of the secretogranin-2 gene severely decreased the ability of males and females to spawn (release sperm and eggs) as well as their courtship behaviours. 

This reduction in their sexual behaviours led to males and females ignoring each other when placed in the same tank with ideal mating conditions. 

So what is the significance of this study? Secretoneurin, a peptide produced from the larger protein secretogranin-2, is a new sex hormone. In the paper posted on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), researchers showed that the genetically modified fish were able to recover some of their ability to breed again following administration of the hormone, secretoneurin. Researchers also claim that “Our secretogranin-2 mutants offer an amenable model system in which to screen potential injectable stimulators of reproduction”. 

The significance of these stimulators could have implications in aquaculture by leading to increased spawning in cultured fish species.

Using these genetically modified fish and further researching secretoneurin could help with the search for human infertility treatments.

When it comes to student involvement in research, this is a paramount example of students coming together to help assist researchers. Over the course of two years, students volunteered through the Michaelle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement, allowing them to receive credit for volunteering on their transcripts. 

“We have scientists that produce world-class research. We’re a collaborative University and there are many opportunities to get involved in different types of projects,” said Kimberly Mitchell, one of the authors of this paper.

When asked about how students can get involved, Mitchell stated students’ can get involved in research, through programs like NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program) and coop programs.  

“This is a great way for undergraduate students to get involved in research and figure out if they like it and want to pursue it,” said Mitchell.

Undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa are always open to helping with research like this, in fact, their efforts not only help speed the progress of sorting through the vast amount of data but allow for students to get involved within the University. 

As this research is viewed in the newest PNAS publication, we will be seeing more research into secretoneurin so as to fully understand its functions.

It is hoped that with this research, new discoveries can be made using this newly found hormone.