The fastest swimmers don’t always win the race, new sperm study shows

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A study on how a woman\u0027s body chooses healthy sperm offers answers for couples struggling with infertility

In nature, mammals typically choose mating partners that are genetically very different, providing any offspring with a set of immune-boosting genes that will complement their own set. They opt for mates that are dissimilar, meaning they have different proteins that help the immune system detect and regulate viruses and bacteria in the body. Scientists believe this is nature’s way of ensuring that the immune systems of offspring are as robust as possible.

This study supported this: the sperm of men who were genetically most different than the females were most successful in surviving — giving them a greater chance at fertilization. “Sperm had a higher probability of survival in HLA-dissimilar male–female combinations compared to more similar combinations,” write the authors. “Our results show that chemical factors in the cervical mucus preferentially conserve sperm viability of HLA-dissimilar males.”“It is possible that some parental HLA [gene] combinations cause complete conception failure, but this may be rather rare,” said Jukka Kekäläinen, an author and associate professor,.

The scientists believe that this new research holds promise for infertile couples, as genetic compatibility may become a factor in how infertility is diagnosed and treated.

 

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