KEY POINTS

  • The sperm's centriole plays a part in fertility, scientists have found
  • A defective centriole would make it hard for the sperm to reach the egg
  • The discovery could lead to new male infertility diagnostic methods 

Scientists have found that the centriole in sperm has a bigger role than just being a shock absorber. In a recent study, researchers found that a new movement on the centriole plays a part in fertility.

A group of scientists has claimed that the centriole in sperm has evolved from simply being a shock absorber to a transmission system with the ability to improve sperm movement. The study, published in Nature Communications, could lead to new methods that could help diagnose and even treat male infertility.

"We think the atypical centriole in the sperm's neck is an evolutionary innovation whose function is to make your sperm move better," said Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, professor of biological sciences in the UToledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. "Reproductive success depends on the ability of sperm to swim through female reproductive tract barriers while out-competing their rivals to fertilize the egg."

The findings suggest that if the head and tail of the sperm aren't moving together, then the sperm would have a difficult time trying to reach the egg, Eurekalert reported.

"If the centriole is defective, this coupling between the sperm tail and head is going to be defective," Avidor-Reiss explained. "In a patient when we don't know what is wrong, potentially we can look at the way the sperm's tail moves and reverse engineer it to determine centriole functionality to determine couple's infertility."

Determining the movement of the centriole could be instrumental in predicting which sperm has a good centriole that is capable of supporting life, according to Florida News Times.

“For now, people don’t know what to fix,” Avidor-Reiss said. “We can identify the problem. This knowledge allows us to identify previously undisclosed subgroups of men with infertility.”

The discovery of the centriole's movement was explained in a song by Ph.D. student Luke Achinger. The song, titled "Twitch, Roll, and Yaw," cleverly details how the new movement works.

"The song is a creative way to understand a big change. The centriole always looked the same over the last billion years. It's one of the most conservative structures in the cell. We found something different that functions in the opposite manner, evolving from a shock absorber to a transmission system," Avidor-Reiss said.

Liu Jiaen, director of a fertility hospital, looking at a sperm sample through a microscope at the hospital in Beijing Liu Jiaen, director of a fertility hospital, looking at a sperm sample through a microscope at the hospital in Beijing Photo: AFP / NOEL CELIS