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One health study could shed light on fertility treatments
“This study highlights the validity of cattle as a model to study human ovarian physiology and fertility."
miR-96 could be key to sustaining pregnancy

A new study of human cells and tissues collected from cattle has revealed the gene-regulating molecule miR-96 could be key to establishing and sustaining pregnancy.

When an egg is released from a follicle in the ovary, the tissue left behind forms the corpus luteum and secretes hormones that are essential for sustaining pregnancy. Inadequate production of progesterone has been associated with pregnancy loss in cattle, sheep and horses.

In humans this association remains unclear, but improving understanding in this area could lead to new fertility treatments.

Scientists from the Roslin Institute explored the effects of small non-coding RNA molecules (microRNAs) on the survival and production of progesterone by corpus luteum cells in humans undergoing assisted contraception.

Previous studies have implicated microRNAs in the maturation of ovarian follicles in several farm animal species. Roslin scientists also collected ovarian tissue from cattle to find out which microRNAs are up-regulated as the corpus luteum develops.

The team found distinct increases in the levels of miR-96 and miR-132 in luteum tissue, relative to follicular tissue. These changes were mirrored in human luteal cells.

Using a specific inhibitor to down-regulate miR-96 decreased the production of progesterone and triggered human luteal cell death. Further analysis revealed the effects of miR-96 are mediated by the transcription factor FOXO1, which offers insights into potential targets for new fertility treatments.

Lead author Dr Xavier Donadeu commented: “This study highlights the validity of cattle as a model to study human ovarian physiology and fertility. Our comparative approach provides new insight into reproductive mechanisms in humans.”

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UK a step closer to ivory ban

News Story 1
 A UK ban on ivory sales is one step closer to coming into force, as the government has introduced the Ivory Bill to parliament. The ban covers items of all ages, rather than just ivory carved after 1947. Anyone breaching the ban will face an unlimited fine or up to five years in jail.

Conservationists have welcomed the bill, which comes less than six weeks after the government published the results of a consultation on this issue. Around 55 African elephants are now slaughtered for their ivory every day and the illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth £17 billion a year.  

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News Shorts
Strategic alliance to support development of agri-food sector

The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) and Queen’s University Belfast have formed a new strategic alliance that will see both institutions form a research and education partnership.

Under the agreement, the organisations will pool their resources and expertise to support the development of the agri-food sector. It will work across three core themes: enabling innovation, facilitating new ways of working and partnerships.