There are still many things about sex and fertilization that are a mystery to scientists. For years we have known that babies are created through sperm finding an egg, but how the heck does a sperm seek out the egg? Are they soul mates, destined to find each other? Are they somehow magnetized? Is it anything like the beginning of the movie Look Who's Talking, where the sperm shout and run in a race and just know to follow the path to the finish line of a resistant egg?
Well, now scientists have figured it out that it is all about proteins that very much acts like magnets! In 2005 researchers discovered Izumol, a binding protein that is on the surface of sperm. That discovery sparked the search to find the eggs' counterpart protein to Izumol. On April 16th Cambridge researchers announced that they had found a receptor protein on the surface of the egg in multiple animals such as possums, mice, and humans.
The receptor protein had already been discovered and named Folr4. It was believed to be part of the folate-receptor family, but now it is believed that its true purpose is to attract sperm. This protein is now named Juno (in a nod to the Roman goddess of marriage … or perhaps the adorable Ellen Page flick).
So what exactly does this new finding mean for women? In short, this discovery could change fertility treatments and non-hormonal birth control for the better! Now doctors can determine if a woman is infertile due to the lack of this protein and help correct it with manual injection of sperm. If you are not on the baby track quite yet, then you can stop pregnancy potentially by blocking this protein.