We’ve been taught that conception hinges on the ability of the sperm to reach and fertilize an egg, but a recent study conducted by researchers at the Washington State University says that the uterus may be playing a bigger role all along.
An Insightful Breakthrough
In a study conducted on female mice, researchers found out that the uterus of the female mice is able to alter and break down semen into a less gel-like and more watery consistency, making it a more favorable environment for sperm to swim faster and easier.
The results of this study indicate that there is more interaction between the female reproductive tract and semen than previously thought. This data is expected to change how fertility treatments are planned and implemented in the future.
It is to be noted that prior to the findings of this research coming to light, scientists previously thought that enzymes from the prostate gland are what’s responsible for breaking down semen.
The study was initiated when Wipawee Winuthayanon, an assistant professor at the Washington State University’s School of Molecular Biosciences reported in the journal PLOS Genetics that the prostate gland enzyme that breaks down semen is also produced by female mice when induced with the use of estrogen. In addition to this, researchers also observed that semen failed to liquefy in the uterus of female mice that lacked the gene to produce the enzyme.
Real Evidence at Last
WSU researchers claimed that the observations documented in their study provided the first real evidence that the female reproductive tract and semen interact in a positive way to impact fertility. Their research highlights the relative roles of secretions produced from both the male and female reproductive tracts that impact the physical alteration that semen has to undergo to facilitate the sperm swimming up to meet and fertilize an egg.
Researchers stated that the information in the study will advance research on sperm liquefaction inside the female reproductive tract, an area of study that needs further exploration. They said that further advancements could lead to the development of tools used to diagnose unexplained cases of infertility and further innovation in non-invasive contraception technologies.
The importance of the data garnered from the study supports the fact that for the sperm to reach the egg in a mammalian anatomy, it should be as efficient as possible in traveling to the egg. In other words, a sperm that is swimming in a less viscous liquid will be able to swim faster and easier because of lesser resistance as compared to it swimming in a thick fluid. Finding out that the female and male reproductive systems are aiding each other to make the sperm’s path as easy as possible for fertilization to occur is, indeed, a breakthrough.
The study was performed by Shuai Li, WSU postdoctoral research associate, Marleny Garcia, WSU honors student, and Rachel L. Gewiss, WSU research assistant.