Fertility can hinge on swimming conditions in the uterus

Fertility can depend upon swimming conditions in the uterus

For a mammal’s sperm to be successful, it must finish the swim of its life to reach and fertilize an egg. That’s simpler if it swims through water, not goo. It ends up that both the male and female have a role in making that take place. A Washington State University scientist has found that the uterus in female mice includes enzymes that can break down semen, making it less gel-like, more watery, and for that reason easier to swim in. Scientists have formerly believed semen is broken down by enzymes from the prostate gland. But writing today in the journal PLOS Genetics, Wipawee Winuthayanon, an assistant teacher in WSU’s School of Molecular Biosciences, reports that female mice also produce the enzyme, using estrogen to cause the process. They also saw that when a female mouse lacked a gene to make this occur, semen failed to liquefy in its uterus. “Our studies supply the very first proof of how the interaction between semen and the female reproductive tract might affect fertility,” the researchers write. The research study highlights an underappreciated issue in the physical changes that semen undergoes and the relative roles of secretions in both the male and female reproductive systems …
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