March 5, 1999
MEDIA CONTACT: Kirsten Birkeland, 360/546-9602,
        VANCOUVER, Wash. -- Male birth control? Washington State University at Vancouver biochemist Steve Sylvester says maybe. It is more likely, says Sylvester, that the grant he has received from the National Institutes of Health will allow for research that may one day lead to a greater understanding of certain types of fertility problems.
        The $139,000 two-year grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at NIH will allow Sylvester to study a sperm-specific gene and protein that are involved in the process of sperm production. Along with research assistant Andre Roy, Sylvester will study the protein at the molecular level, focusing on how and when the protein contributes to the sperm production process.
        The research, says Sylvester, may one day lead to a greater understanding of how to treat infertility in males. About 20 percent of American couples are subfertile -- meaning there are factors limiting the sperm production process. Sylvester's research will focus on the molecular errors that can occur in the process known as spermatogenesis.
        "As we understand more about the molecular process that occurs in the production of sperm, we may be able to design drugs to enhance or inhibit it," says Sylvester, whose focus on fertility is just one of his areas of research.
        In addition to teaching biochemistry and biology courses at WSU Vancouver, Sylvester studies the impact of computer animations on cognitive processes in learning complex scientific subjects. In addition, he works with local high school students on the High School Human Genome Project, an effort which allows students to participate in discovering the sequence of human DNA.
        WSU Vancouver provides junior-, senior- and graduate-level courses to approximately 1,500 students on its 351-acre campus seven miles north of the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area.

Note to Editors:
Dr. Sylvester can be reached at 360/546-9724 or by e-mail at


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