The mating game is far more complicated than X and Y

June 23, 2010
The race for life.

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Adelaide research reveals that a man's sperm does far more than fertilise an egg in the womb.

According to Professor Sarah Robertson from the University's Robinson Institute, semen has special qualities that contribute to a healthy pregnancy, including helping to prepare the female body for nurturing the .

But the news isn't all good for men. It appears some fails to 'communicate' with the and while a man can appear to be fertile, his semen can be rejected by a woman if it's not compatible with her.

This is more likely to happen if a woman has not previously been exposed to his sperm over a period of time.

"We used to think that if a couple couldn't get pregnant, and the man's semen test was normal, the problem lay with the woman. But it appears this is not always the case," says Professor Robertson.

The fertility specialist is leading a national research project examining the actions of semen in the cervix and after takes place.

"We have discovered that sperm doesn't just fertilise an egg. It actually contains signalling molecules that are responsible for activating immune changes in women so they can accept a foreign substance in the body - in this case sperm - leading to conception and a healthy pregnancy.

"It's rather like a two-way dance. The male provides information that increases the chances of conception and progression to pregnancy, but the female body has a quality control system which needs convincing that his sperm is compatible, and also judges whether the conditions are right for reproducing. That's where the dance can go wrong with some couples - if the male signals are not strong enough, or if the female system is too `choosy'.

"If we can understand the cascade of events which come into play when the sperm enters the female reproductive tract, we may be able to mimic or assist this with new therapies, encouraging tolerance of her partner's semen, for those couples who are experiencing difficulties becoming pregnant."

Professor Robertson says this is the first study of its kind in Australia and will increase our knowledge of the importance of for reproductive health, hopefully leading to improved treatments for infertility and miscarriage.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Gene therapy improves immunity in babies with 'bubble boy' disease

December 9, 2017
Early evidence suggests that gene therapy developed at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital will lead to broad protection for infants with the devastating immune disorder X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency disorder. ...

In lab research, scientists slow progression of a fatal form of muscular dystrophy

December 8, 2017
In a paper published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, Saint Louis University (SLU) researchers report that a new drug reduces fibrosis (scarring) and prevents loss of muscle function in an animal model of Duchenne ...

Double-blind study shows HIV vaccine not effective in viral suppression

December 7, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A large team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada has conducted a randomized double-blind study of the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine and has found it to be ineffective in suppressing the virus. In ...

Time matters: Does our biological clock keep cancer at bay?

December 7, 2017
Our body has an internal biological or "circadian" clock, which cycles daily and is synchronized with solar time. New research done in mice suggests that it can help suppress cancer. The study, publishing 7 December in the ...

Novel harvesting method rapidly produces superior stem cells for transplantation

December 7, 2017
A new method of harvesting stem cells for bone marrow transplantation - developed by a team of investigators from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer Center and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute - appears to accomplish ...

Inhibiting TOR boosts regenerative potential of adult tissues

December 7, 2017
Adult stem cells replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues throughout our lifetime. We lose many of those stem cells, along with their regenerative capacity, as we age. Working in flies and mice, researchers at ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.