A joint study conducted by researchers at University of Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reveals that sperm cells are extremely efficient swimmers and are able to swim against the current over long distances in order to reach and fertilize the egg.
The researchers wanted to find out how the sperm cells managed to navigate over long distances, over 1000 times longer than their own length, and in the right direction. The researchers built a series of micro-channels to mimic the path that the sperm cells take along the fallopian tubes and inserted the sperm cells into these channels. They also modified the speed and flow of the fluid through the tubes and found that the cells were able to swim upstream for several minutes.
"We wanted to know which physical mechanisms could be responsible for navigation. We found that if you create the right flow velocities, you can observe them swimming upstream for several minutes. The mechanism is very robust", lead researcher Dr Jorn Dunkel said.