NOV 13, 2015 09:55 AM PST

Slithering Sperm to Improve Fertility Odds?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

In the future, fertility treatments may include a "Sperm Olympics" event to select the ones that are not only the fastest, but able to slither like a snake!

Using a technique called total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, a team of engineers from the University of Toronto was able to capture sperm movement within 100 nanometres of a flat surface. What they captured for the first time was that the sperm slithered in 2D from side to side like a snake. They observed this motion for about one sperm's body length before the sperm returned to the traditional 3D corkscrew motion.

How is this snake-like movement beneficial? The team observed that the 2D slithering improved the speed of the sperm by 50% in liquid conditions of higher viscosity. This could be a significant competitive advantage as the sperm travel through the female reproductive tract.

Previous work in microfluidics has shown that fast-moving sperm tended to have higher DNA integrity and are more likely to produce a viable embryo. Additional research has to be completed to show whether slithering is associated with similar positive advantages. But if it is, the sperm selection process for IVF treatments may soon have another "field event" that could include microchannels passable to only sperm that can slither. These combined traits could dramatically increase the odds of success for people undergoing IVF treatments.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
SEP 15, 2018
Videos
SEP 15, 2018
A Hangover Cure in a Pill
A night of drinking can lead to a morning of regret for many people, but science is working on a solution for the physical pain....
SEP 20, 2018
Videos
SEP 20, 2018
The Lowdown on Vaccine Development and Production
Learn more about how vaccines are developed and tested, from the CDC....
SEP 25, 2018
Videos
SEP 25, 2018
Predicting Influenza: Could Private Health Data Help?
Health data, such as information contained in a patient’s electronic health record, is closely guarded to ensure privacy and compliance with HIPAA la...
OCT 02, 2018
Space & Astronomy
OCT 02, 2018
Here's What'd Happen if We Detonated a Nuclear Bomb in Space
Have you ever wondered what would happen if humankind detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb in space? If so, then this is a video you’ll want to w...
OCT 10, 2018
Videos
OCT 10, 2018
It Matters How Young You Start Using Cannabis
If the brain's endocannabinoid system is constantly disrupted with cannabis while developing it can affect mood, motivation, learning and how memo...
OCT 13, 2018
Videos
OCT 13, 2018
Why you shouldn't give a baby water
Did you know that babies shouldn't drink water before they are at least six months old? That's because, while human adults are composed of 55-60% w...
Loading Comments...