Surprise! the ‘sperm’ swims like otters, not like eels

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More than three hundred years have passed since Antonie van Leeuwenhoek – known as the ‘father of microbiology’ – decided to put microscope his own ejaculation to discover at this moment some living forms swimming like eels. At that time a foundation was laid that has remained among us to this day: sperm move like eels or snakes in semen. However, a new study has confirmed that these cells have a very different movement pattern: they swim like otters.


He study published in Science Advances has analyzed the movement of sperm using 3D microscopes instead of conventional 2D that have been used to date for analysis. Detailed analysis of the images has shown that these cells have deceived the entire world during all this time: instead of moving by moving their long tails, as previously believed, they use a more sophisticated movement that includes a turn on themselves.

He finding may be key in research on infertility, as highlighted by Hermes Gadelha, one of the study authors. The work of these researchers has shown that we were, in reality, facing an optical illusion that has been discovered using high-speed cameras (capturing up to 55,000 frames per second). The captured images have then been processed and reconstructed to achieve a three-dimensional result.

After studying this image, the researchers have discovered that the sperm only moves the tail to one side, something that theoretically would make the cell rotate perpetually in circles, but compensates for this trajectory by rotating itself, like an otter would. This helical twist would allow the sperm to move faster rather than develop a flipper or paddle to propel itself, and before you imagine a swimmer imitating this spin at the Olympics, we confirmed that this strategy is only valid in high-density liquids.

The post Surprise! the ‘sperm’ swims like otters, not like eels appeared first on Digital Trends Español.

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