Some sperm swim to the beat of their own drummer

Your boys might not swim straight. They could paddle along in a corkscrew pattern, or hyperactively wiggle in no pattern at all. But the truly vital discovery is that now scientists can see those swimmers in action… in 3-D.

Using new microchip technology and red and blue LED lights, researchers at the University of California are charting how human sperm cells swim. Sperm cells are so tiny and so fast, that it’s been difficult to track their swimming style.

What the scientists found is that not all sperm swim the same — some straight, some corkscrew, and some in no real pattern at all. Now researchers need to find out what that means; do healthier sperm cells swim straight? How are genetics playing a role? Do other microorganisms exhibit these differences within species? And, how can this be applied to solving fertility problems for couples struggling to have a baby?

Those are a lot of questions for such a tiny cell, but hopefully the LEDs will illuminate more than the sperm.

Photo: Grace Hebert/Flickr

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