There's even more bad news for sperms, a new research reveals. Apart from recent reports that the concentration per ejaculate is decreasing, and that scientists have created artificial sperm that might soon render it irrelevant, the prognosis for sperms and male infertility, in general, isn't getting better.

Researchers from the University of Toledo have just discovered a completely new sperm structure, and it could provide clues to infertility among males, miscarriages, and birth defects.

The Second Centriole

The findings of this research, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, reveal that contrary to current knowledge, the sperm actually has a second centriole — the cytoplasmic structure that plays a key role in cell division. Researchers call this an "atypical" centriole. Both of these centrioles have the same function, although, they have extremely different properties and characteristics.

"Abnormalities in the formation and function of the atypical centriole may be the root of infertility of unknown cause in couples who have no treatment options available to them," said Tomer Avidor-Reiss, of the university's Department of Biological Sciences.

What Are Centrioles For?

Two centrioles are required to make the working centrosome, and it was believed that the sperm gave only one centriole to the egg whereupon it duplicates itself, until now. As it turns out, it doesn't really duplicate itself as once thought, but rather, the extra centriole was all there all along.

The centriole is the only essential cellular structure in the sperm that's given solely by the male reproductive participant. They are essential for building the cell's antennae, called cilia and the cytoskeleton. They also play a major role in making sure cell division is accurate and complete.

A zygote must have two centrioles for life to happen. It has not been clear where exactly the second centriole comes from until now since they definitely don't come from the female participant. The researchers said that the existence of the extra centriole has been largely overlooked because it differs greatly from the first centriole when it comes to protein composition and structure.

Further Research Needed

It's not yet clear whether this atypical centriole is indeed the root of all infertility problems or not. However, it does provide new insights into early embryo developmental effects. It could also pave the way for brand-new methodologies for diagnosing birth defects and possibly, even for treatments of male infertility.

In other words, the atypical centriole is a stunning new discovery, but it's far too early to blame it for every known birth defect and infertility issues. According to Avidor-Reiss, the university's Urology Department will continue working with the Biological Sciences Department to find out if the atypical centriole is linked to infertility, and if it is, which one.

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