Rants and Musings About Science

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Essence of Ovary


I’m always amazed at the power of certain animals' senses, like a bat’s sonar , a cat’s night vision,elephant’s hearing or a dog’s sense of smell. It turns out that SPERM have a sense of smell, too!



Results published in this week’s Analytical Chemistry show that mouse sperm can detect even the faintest trace of an ovary’s scent. The phenomenon that allows cells to sense certain molecules in their environment is known as chemotaxis.

When mouse sperm are placed in a liquid environment they were observed to swim straight towards extracts of a female mouse’s ovary. The report details the biochemical processes that allow the sperm to pick up on the ovary’s odor.

This may explain how sperm find their way to the egg and may give scientists an understanding of reproduction problems in humans and aid in the development of fertility drugs and treatments.

"Defects in sperm chemotaxis may be a cause of infertility, and consequently, sperm chemotaxis could potentially be used as a diagnostic tool to determine sperm quality or as a therapeutic procedure in male infertility," said Stephen C. Jacobson an Indiana University Bloomington Associate Professor of Chemistry and author of the study in a press release.

Though the scientists did not find the specific molecule that the sperm can sniff-out, they did find that they swam right to the desired target even when the exact of a mouse ovary was diluted 100,000 times.

The study helps to confirm previous knowledge that odor receptor cells found on sperm serve a function.

Check out this video of the li’l buggers swimming right towards the ovary’s aroma!

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