Day 95. Sperm

In November 2012 on November 15, 2012 at 11:55 am

The picture shown above was created by my 7 year old daughter, and features her thumb prints as a repetitive motif for mouse bodies.

Perhaps I’m giving away a little too much about how my mind works, but to me they are reminiscent of sperm. Sperm come to mind easily if you’ve worked in a department conducting research into reproductive health (which I have).  For most people however, the ejaculate does not constitute a subject around which easy discussions are conducted.

This might change given last night’s award of the NSW 2012 Scientist of the Year to John Aitken from the University of Newcastle.

John works with sperm every day, trying to understand how they develop in the testes, and what components of their structure are important for male fertility.

In an interview aired on ABC radio this morning, John explained one of the drivers of his research passion:

“Our understanding of male reproduction is far behind our understanding of female reproduction. If you are a woman and you have a reproductive problem, that’s fine, you can go to a hospital and there will be a department of obstetrics and gynaecology to greet you and people trained in female reproduction to sort out your condition. But if you are a male with a reproductive problem, there is no clinical department for you to go to.”

John hopes his research will eventually lead to more options for contraception, and possible also protection against sexually transmitted disease.

When did you last talk about sperm?

  1. I heard a broadcast yesterday on the ABC from this scientist. As a science teacher and as someone who has had fertility struggles I was some what annoyed by his mention of “the rythym” method of monitoring a woman’s fertility. This is simplistic at best and just reiterates the notion that all women have a 28 day cycle and ovulate on day 14.
    I feel that all young women should be taught how to understand their bodies, and not just the cultural and social understandings of how to achieve or avoid pregnancy. Nothing makes me madder than to hear some of the myths out there about this topic – especially the good old “relax and it will happen”. Fertility really is on a continuity scale for both males and females. I believe the statistics are something like 1 in 6 couples will experience issues with fertility.
    Getting down off soap box now.
    I am very glad that there is someone out there researching male fertility and believe there should be specialists in this area who work closely with OB/GYNs with qualifications in endocrinology.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your comment and personal insights, it sure can be a rollercoaster trying to get good information and indeed education about conception and pregnancy. I agree we should all have a better understanding of how our bodies work. Also, from what I’ve read, there is more and more evidence that a combination of male and female factors determine fertility. I do some writing work for The Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide. While they focus primarily on female factors contributing to fertility and health of babies, they do also explore some male aspects. Work from them and many institutes show that male age, weight, consumption of alcohol and cigarettes and other factors operating at the sub-cellular level (eg DNA methylation) all impact on male fertility.

    So glad to see John got this prize!

    Cheers for now,

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