Scientists studying mice have identified a gene which could boost human fertility.
Experts say the discovery, announced in a journal today, could help people struggling to conceive naturally.
A Durham University team working with scientists from Osaka University in Japan were studying fertility in mice when they discovered that the gene, which makes a protein called PDILT, enables sperm to bind to an egg, a process essential to fertilisation.
They found that when the gene was switched off in male mice, less than 3% of females' eggs were fertilised compared to more than 80% in mice when the gene was left switched on.
It is the first time that a gene of this type has been linked to fertility.
Adam Benham, of Durham University's school of biological and biomedical sciences, said: "The protein is an essential part of the navigation system of sperm.
"It helps sperm swim through the oviduct to the egg and without it sperm get stuck.
"Our results show that navigating the oviduct is an important part of the fertilisation process.
"Like any navigation system, you have to programme where it is that you want to go and this protein plays an essential role in getting sperm to the right destination, in good shape, and in good time."
The researchers also found that the cumulus cells, a cluster of cells surrounding and protecting an egg, play an important role in fertility - their presence enables sperm to bind properly to an egg.
Although the research and findings are at an early stage, the researchers now hope to look at how the gene affects sperm-to-egg binding in humans.
The findings are published in the journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Frozen embryos are more likely to produce successful, complication-free IVF pregnancies than those that are fresh, research suggests. Using stored embryos cuts the risk of bleeding in pregnancy, premature birth, and giving birth to an underweight baby by almost a third, a study has found. The risk of a baby dying at around the time of birth is also reduced by about a fifth. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/04/health-frozen-embryos-boost-ivf_n_1853377.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-lifestyle" target="_hplink">Read the full story here.</a>
IVF babies born from frozen embryos are heavier and healthier than those born from fresh embryos, new fertility research has discovered. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/06/frozen-embryo-ivf-babies-healthier_n_1186664.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
Babies with three biological parents could soon be a reality after a new £6m laboratory has been given the go ahead and funding to develop a unique IVF technique which uses DNA from a third party. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/20/three-parent-ivf-may-be-legal_n_1218681.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
Reception class pupil Reuben Blake went back to school today, but his twin sister will have to wait another five years until she is old enough. That is because, despite the fact the brother and sister were conceived from the same batch of embryos, they were born five years apart to parents Simon and Jody Blake. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/04/twins-born-five-years-apart-floren-simon-blake_n_1182717.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
Scientists have made a breakthrough that could enable infertile men to father children with their own sperm. Researchers at Muenster University in Germany grew mouse sperm in a laboratory and believe the same technique could be used with human sperm. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/01/03/sperm-grown-in-laboratory_n_1180695.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
Scientists from the Imperial College London have discovered a 'fertility switch' that could help treat infertility and miscarriage in the future. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/17/new-hope-for-women-struggling-to-conceive_n_1015554.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority have announced today that women who donate their eggs to infertile couples, will be rewarded an extra £500 in costs. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/19/women-will-receive-triple-the-payment-for-egg-donation_n_1019830.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
A baby girl was born after being conceived using sperm that has been kept frozen for 25 years - the longest that sperm has been kept frozen and then successfully used for IVF in the UK. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/06/baby-conceived-by-oldest-frozen-sperm_n_1257653.html" target="_hplink"><strong>Read the full story here</strong></a>.
Plus fertility-boosting food you should be eating..
Although there is no direct link between refined carbohydrates and infertility, the refining process strips grains of some of the most important fertility-boosting nutrients, such as antioxidants, B vitamins and iron.
Modern methods of food production, involving intensive farming, rob the soil of vital nutrients, so where possible stick to organic produce. Processed foods are packed with additives and preservatives that can upset blood sugar levels and disrupt the body's hormonal balance.
Too much red meat increases the amount of ammonia in the body, which can interfere with the implantation of the egg in the uterus. Red meat can also be detrimental for men as it increases acidity and affects sperm activity; sperm perform better in alkaline conditions.
The animal hormones in dairy products can affect your own hormonal balance. If you balk at the richness of soya milk and can't bear to give up your semi-skimmed, switch to organic dairy products instead as these contain lower levels of hormones.
Giving up alcohol is not strictly necessary until you fall pregnant but it might be worth bearing in mind that Danish research, studying the link between alcohol consumption and fertility, found that <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12848646" target="_hplink">alcohol intake had a significant effect on infertility success</a> among women above the age of 30 who drank seven or more drinks a week.
While you don't need to give up your morning coffee, caffeine does constrict the blood vessels, slowing blood flow to the uterus and potentially making it harder for an egg to grab hold. So, if you're having any trouble conceiving, or undergoing IVF treatment, you might want to go easy on the double espressos.
Aside from being packed with vitamins and minerals, fruit and vegetables are packed with antioxidants that attack free-radicals (harmful molecules that can damage the ova, sperm and reproductive organs).
Zinc helps to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle as well as being vital during pregnancy to aid cell division in a developing foetus. Folic acid (Vitamin B6), together with zinc, is essential in the function of female sex hormones. Vitamin B12 is also very important as it maximises the absorption of folic acid. Taking a multi-vitamin tablet designed especially for conception is a good way to ensure you're getting enough of these valuable nutrients. Marmite is also a great source!