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'Human sperm gene 600 million years old'

In a finding which could have many practical uses for human health including male contraception, US scientists claim to have discovered that the human sperm gene is 600 million years old.

world Updated: Jul 16, 2010 13:45 IST

In a finding which could have many practical uses for human health including male contraception, US scientists claim to have discovered that the human sperm gene is 600 million years old.

A team at Northwestern University has found that the sex-specific gene, called Boule, which is responsible for sperm production, has remained unaltered throughout evolution and is found in almost all animals.

The research has also revealed that Boule is the only gene known to be exclusively required for sperm production --from an insect to a mammal.

"This is the first clear evidence that suggests our ability to produce sperm is very ancient, probably originating at the dawn of animal evolution 600 million years ago. This finding suggests that all animal sperm production likely comes from a common prototype," lead scientist Prof Eugene Xu said.

According to him, the discovery of Boule's key role in perpetuating animal species offers a better understanding of male infertility, a potential target for a male contraceptive drug and a new direction for future development of pesticides or medicine against infectious parasites or carriers of germs.