Fertilization is a long chain of molecular events that need to happen in exactly the right way, in the right order, at the right time, and just one step not going to plan can mean the difference between conception and not. As such, for a large percentage of infertile couples the specific reason cannot be identified. A new study by researchers at the University of Sheffield, investigated proteins on the surface of eggs that might help or hinder sperm that are trying to bond with them. The team used thousands of beads as artificial eggs, each of which had different peptides on their surfaces. These were then incubated with sperm, to see which beads and which peptides attracted sperm in higher numbers. They identified a specific protein that was associated with these successful artificial eggs and names the protein MAIA. The researchers inserted the gene associated with MAIA into human cells in culture, and found that these also became more receptive to sperm. This suggests MAIA plays a major role in drawing sperm into the egg to achieve fertilization. The problems of MAIA may have been an overlooked factor for infertility; therefore, scientists having identified the protein, can now develop new treatments to aid in conceiving and to prevent conception.