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How Sperms Swim Can Now Be Explained With Mathematical Formula, Helps Treat Infertility

First Posted: Mar 22, 2017 06:21 AM EDT
Human Sperm
Sperm under microscope 1000x.
(Photo : Aurel Manea/YouTube screenshot)

A mathematical formula can explain the steady back and forth motions of a sperm's swimming movement, according to a new research. Scientists studied the beat of single sperm tails called flagella to mathematically reconstruct their waveform. The study of individual sperm travel through fluid can help in understanding the behavior and interaction of larger group of sperms. As per the scientists, the research can be important for developing treatments for male infertility.

"We wanted to create a mathematical formula that would make it easier to address this problem and simplify the prediction of how large numbers of sperm swim,” said Dr. Hermes Gadêlha, mathematician at the U.K.’s University of York. “This would help to know why some sperm succeed and others fail."

The researchers were able to study the sperm movement by capturing its swimming motion by filming a sample from a human sperm donor. The data was then transferred to a computer, and it helped in analyzing the sperm’s tail beat. Subsequently, a waveform was generated for the tiny cells’ flagellar movement.

According to the research team, a sperm pushes itself forward with a jerky, contradictory movement that pulls the head sideways and backwards at the same time. "You would think that the sperm’s jerky movements would have a very random effect on the fluid flow around it, making it even more difficult for competing sperm cells to travel through it, but actually you see well defined patterns forming in the fluid around the sperm," Dr. Gadêlha added.

As per the researchers, the process suggests that to achieve locomotion, a sperm moves the fluid around in a really coordinated manner in a way similar to how magnetic fields are created around magnets. Creating a formula for sperm movements will make it easy for scientists to estimate how fluid flows can impact large groups of sperms. This in turn can help in understanding why some men’s sperms do not move strongly enough to fertilize an egg.

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