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Even when faint, ovary scent draws sperm cells

... Knows he, that never took a pinch
Nosey, the pleasure thence that flows?
Knows he the titillating joy
Which my nose knows.

O nose, I am as proud of thee
As any mountain of its snows;
I gaze on thee, and feel that pride
A Roman knows.

-- Anonymous

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Mice are known to have a keen sense of smell, but it's not just their noses that are adept at picking up a scent, a new study shows.

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 Distinguish
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Contact: David Bricker
brickerd@indiana.edu
812-856-9035
Indiana University
18-May-2006


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