The world of microorganisms tends to be a wet one. So how a cell swims is critical to its survival…. and essential to biologists trying to understand the foundations of life. Researchers at UCLA have invented a dual-angle/dual lighting computer-based lens-less camera to record how human sperm and horse sperm swim. They were surprised to observe helical “corkscrew” and patterns that look like twisted ribbons develop. As the sperm swim, their heads beat in an elliptical motion of small magnitude… while, on a larger scale, their whole trajectory rotates to form what’s known as a “chiral ribbon.” Twisting to the right is common in human sperm; but twisting to the left – as seen here – is more prevalent in horse sperm. Just why this spiraling behavior evolved is still a subject of speculation. But researchers are now confident that this new tool of observation will help them find out. For, I’m Dave Brody

Human sperm (and horse sperm) trace a corkscrew course as they navigate, UCLA researchers observed with a new lens-less camera. But just why sperm do this is still a mystery.

Credit: LiveScience / UCLA / Ozcan Research

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