In what is a great success for the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Münster, the Clinical Research Unit "Male Germ Cells" will continue to receive funding - amounting to 5.7 million euros - from the German Research Foundation (DFG). Since 2017, researchers and clinicians have been working together to investigate the causes of male infertility. "This generous funding will enable us to carry straight on from our previous successes," says Prof. Frank Tüttelmann from the Institute of Human Genetics, who is research coordinator of the Clinical Research Unit. "Taking an interdisciplinary approach, we not only analyse the genetic causes of male infertility, but also provide individual strategies for treatment. For couples who are trying to have a child, this is a big step towards making their dream come true," he adds.
By analysing the genomes of more than 1,000 infertile patients, the research group was able to demonstrate that mutations or deletions in the DNA lead to no, or only a small amount of, sperm being formed - or to a reduction in the motility of the sperm, rendering them incapable of fertilizing an egg. These analyses are important for learning more about the genetic causes of infertility and are the necessary basis for any possible treatment.
In the coming three years, the team of researchers will be working together with several clinics and institutions among them the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Biomedicine in Münster to find out more about the genetic and epigenetic causes of infertility and about the three-dimensional DNA structure which plays a decisive role in sperm function. By means of such innovative technologies as single-cell analyses and modern bioinformatics, the complex process of sperm formation will provide new insights into germ cells and hormone-producing testicular cells. "In the process, machine learning - in other words, artificial intelligence - will play an important role as this technology will decisively influence future diagnoses of patients," explains Prof. Jörg Gromoll from the Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Andrology, who is the Clinical Research Unit’s spokesperson. "We are developing programmes," he adds, "which will target and recognise possible causes of infertility and thus provide the doctor involved with valuable information for diagnosis and treatment."