While sperm cells make up half of the formula for new life, people typically don’t give them much thought. However, there is a lot of interesting and even surprising information about sperm and semen, the fluid that surrounds it. Here is a look at some of the facts surrounding the male half of the reproductive equation:
While it takes approximately 72 days for a single sperm to mature, the human body is forming 1500 sperm per second. A man will make sperm throughout his entire adult lifetime, beginning at puberty and continuing until death. A typical ejaculation measures about half a teaspoon, but it contains 200 million sperm. Those cells, laid end to end, would stretch for six miles. This number differs not only between individuals but also regionally. New Yorkers have approximately a 50% higher average sperm count compared to Los Angeles residents, for reasons that are currently unknown.
Approximately 90% of human sperm is deformed. This is an evolutionary consequence of monogamy. If genes don’t have to compete to find an egg, there is less need for a high quantity of quality sperm. Many of the deformed sperm have motility issues, which makes it more likely that a healthy sperm will be first to an egg.
Men keep their sperm cool in their testicles. These organs average approximately 7 degrees cooler than body temperature at any given time. This allows the cells to have a longer life while awaiting ejaculation. Ultimately, sperm that are not released will break down and their nutrients will be recycled into the body.
Semen is a fluid that surrounds sperm. It is a combination of fluids released by the seminal vesicles and prostate glands. Semen provides a large number of benefits to aid sperm. It is very high in nutrients. It has the protein level of an egg white, and it contains sugars, vitamins C and B12, calcium and magnesium. Semen has a component that stays viscous when inside a female to help with sperm motility. It also contains special protector cells that flank sperm cells to prevent them from being identified as foreign bodies by a female immune system.
Sperm have a very poor sense of innate direction. Instead, they must rely on a number of scent receptors that use female vaginal fluids as directional cues. When they reach the egg, they use a body located on their head called the acrosome. This is a bundle of chemicals that releases when it comes in contact with an egg to help drill through the outer wall. Dr Parviz Kavoussi, Reproductive Urologist and male fertility specialist, says that sperm needn’t be motile to produce healthy, viable children when used with assisted reproductive techniques as long as the sperm cells are viable. In the case of many IVF procedures, the sperm is inserted into the egg . The intact DNA combining with that of the egg is what is crucial.