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The researchers, from the universities of York and Oxford, discovered that a reinforcing outer-layer which coats the tails of human sperm is what gives them the strength to make the powerful rhythmic strokes needed to break through the cervical mucus barrier.
Only around 15 out of the 55 million sperm that embark on the treacherous journey to fertilise the egg are able to make it through the reproductive tract where cervical mucus, which is one hundred times thicker than water, forms part of one of nature's toughest selective challenges.
Findings - Sperm-selection - Methods - IVF - Clinics
The findings could lead to better sperm-selection methods in IVF clinics, with the fittest sperm being identified under conditions that mimic nature more closely.
3.5 million people in the UK are affected by fertility issues and couples who opt for IVF spend an average of £20,000.
Dr - Hermes - Gadêlha - Department - Mathematics
Dr Hermes Gadêlha, from the Department of Mathematics at the University of York, said: "We still don't fully understand how, but a sperm's ability to swim could be associated with genetic integrity. Cervical mucus forms part of the process in the female body of ensuring only the best swimmers make it to the egg.
"During the sperm selection process, IVF clinics don't currently use a highly viscous liquid to test for the best sperm as until now it was not entirely clear whether this is important. Our study suggests that more clinical tests and research are needed to explore the impact of this element of the natural environment when selecting sperm for IVF treatments."
Sperm - Tails - Flagella - Measure - Breadth
Sperm tails -- or flagella -- are incredibly complex and measure just the breadth of a hair in length.
The researchers used virtual sperm model to compare the tails of sperm from humans and other mammals, which fertilise inside the body; with sperm from sea urchins, which fertilize outside the body by releasing...
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