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Kantsler, Vasily; Blayney, Martyn; Goldstein, Raymond E.; Dunkel, Joern (2014)
Publisher: eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd.
Languages: English
Types: Article
Subjects: Biophysics and Structural Biology, other, Research Article, fertilization, Quantitative Biology - Cell Behavior, QH426, Physics - Biological Physics, sperm, Condensed Matter - Soft Condensed Matter, rheotaxis, QH, human, QP, Human Biology and Medicine

Classified by OpenAIRE into

mesheuropmc: urogenital system, endocrine system
eLife digest A sperm cell must complete a long and taxing journey to stand a chance of fertilising an egg cell. This quest covers a distance that is thousands of times longer than the length of a sperm cell. It also passes through the diverse environments of the cervix, the uterus and, finally, the oviduct, where there might be an egg to fertilise. How the sperm cells manage to stay on course over this distance is a mystery, although it has been suggested that many different factors, including chemical signals and fluid flow, are involved. The fluids that the sperm cells travel through are not static. Evidence suggests that contractions of the cervix and uterus help to pump sperm cells along the first part of their journey. However, mucus flows out of the oviduct in the opposite direction to way the sperm cells need to go. Sperm cells mostly move along the walls of the cervix, uterus, and oviduct. This means that sperm cells must contend with two properties of the fluids they travel through—the viscosity (or ‘thickness’) of the fluid, and the fact that different parts of the fluid will flow at different speeds, depending on how close it is to the wall (‘shear flow’). Kantsler et al. have now used a technique called microfluidics—which involves forcing tiny amounts of liquid to flow through very narrow channels—to study how the movement of human and bull sperm cells along a surface is affected by the viscosity and flow rate of the fluid they are swimming through. The sperm cells were found to swim upstream, moving along the walls of the channels in a spiral movement. This is likely to help the sperm cells to find the egg, because spiralling around the oviduct will increase the chances of meeting the egg. Kantsler et al. also built a mathematical model that describes how the sperm cells move. Although further work is needed to better understand the role played by chemical signals, understanding how fluid flow and viscosity influence sperm cells could lead to more effective artificial insemination techniques. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02403.002

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  • EC | BIOCOMPLEX

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