Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sperm Followup

The NYT has a neat interview with a sperm scientist.

From the article:

Q. What are some of the underappreciated attributes of sperm?

A. I’m fascinated by how determined they are. Sperm — each one seems an individual in the way they move. When they change from one motion to another, it’s fascinating.

Moreover, they have the ability to do much more than most other human cells: they crawl long distances in a short period of time, they can sense their surroundings. In fact, they have molecules that are much the same as olfactory receptors in our noses.

As you watch them under a microscope, you get the sense that they are going somewhere, or at least “think” they are. They surround an egg and vigorously try to fuse with it. They don’t give up until they run out of energy.

This is true. Sperm might not be more than a human cell converted into a living micro-rocket with a genetic payload, but they require a ton of specialized abilities in order to complete their biological imperative. They must be mobile, be able to detect a very small target in a huge environment, be able to deliver the package to a receptive ova and be a champion survivor in a very hostile theater of operations. Not bad for one of the smallest cells in the body, eh?

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