We all know the egg and the sperm story. Male semen and sperm are distributed into the female reproductive tract and they make the epic journey into the fallopian tubes (tube which connects the ovary to the womb) where the best sperm fertilises the egg. In order for sperm to be able to swim up to the egg, the semen needs to be made less gloopy – imagine the difference between swimming through a swamp and then swimming in a pool?!

Originally it was thought that the prostate gland was responsible for making the semen less gloopy, however new research published in PLOS Genetics by a group at Washington State University, has found that the female hormone oestrogen may be responsible for helping sperm reach its target[1]. Using genetic and molecular techniques, the group demonstrated that female mice missing a certain protein were unable to make semen less gloopy.

All of this may seem pretty trivial however, considering 1 in 7 couples in the UK have difficulty conceiving [2], these new insights may help pave the way for new fertility treatments!

References:

[2]NHS infertility

[1]PLOS Genetics