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Even when faint, ovary scent draws sperm cells

In this week's Analytical Chemistry, scientists at Indiana University Bloomington report biochemical machinery that allows mouse sperm cells to follow the weakest of scents. Even when ovary extracts were diluted 100,000 times, some sperm cells still found their mark.

A video demonstrating sperm chemotaxis (oriented motion in response to a chemical gradient) can be downloaded at http://www.iuinfo.indiana.edu/bem/media_relations/movie.chemotaxis.mpg(Credit: Stephen C. Jacobson, 2006).

"Sperm are known to exhibit chemotaxis toward extracts from various female reproductive organs, but the role of chemotaxis in reproduction is not known," said IUB Associate Professor of Chemistry Stephen C. Jacobson. "The chemicals that actually attract sperm have not been identified. Systematic study of various compounds released by the female reproductive organs under various conditions might further our understanding of these processes."

Understanding why, how and when sperm are attracted to ovaries may help scientists understand problems with human conception.

"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," Jacobson said.

The project is a collaboration between research groups led by Jacobson and IUB Distinguished Professor of Chemistry Milos V. Novotny. Their work led to the development of a "flow-through" device, a sort of liquid treadmill for sperm cells, which allows researchers to follow the lateral movement of sperm as the cells swim through a liquid medium.

The device feeds three streams of liquid into a single chamber. Beyond the chamber, flows are split into three exit streams. Flow rate can be regulated simply by raising or lowering the height of the source medium, in thi
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Source:Indiana University


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