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Nano Letters

Attaching Mini Motors to Sperm Could Help Treat Infertility

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Nano Letters

Men and women spend approximately $3.5 billion on infertility services in U.S. each year, and often times a hefty investment still isn’t enough to help couples conceive. There can be many factors at play, but one common culprit on the male end is low sperm motility, or ability to move. To enable sperm to swim better, a team of German researchers have invented tiny motors that generate their power through a magnetic field.

In a study recently published in the journal Nano Letters, the scientists explain how their so-called “spermbots” are able to function. The mechanism is a microscopic spiral of metal proportioned perfectly to fit over the tail without slipping over the head. Researchers can guide the motor to the sperm of their choice using the rotating magnetic field, and once attached it propels the sperm towards the egg where it slips off upon entry—at least in theory.

The micromotors have yet to be tested in humans and researchers are still not sure how a woman’s immune system might react to their presence in the body. And at this point it would be impossible to get a good view of any motorized sperm inside the body to point them in the right direction, a problem the researchers are currently searching for a solution to. The motors themselves could also use some fine-tuning to ensure they don’t damage any sperm on the journey.

Still, the initial tests, observed inside a Petri dish, show promise. The magnetic field used to propel the motor does no harm to the cells around it, and researchers were able to successfully use it to direct the sperm to wherever they wanted them to go. If the technology tests successfully in humans, the technique may one day be used as a cheaper alternative to current fertility treatments. 

[h/t: Popular Science]

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Animals
Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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science
Are Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Really Linked? Researchers Investigate
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Around the world, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are said to go hand-in-hand. But do they? As PsyPost reports, a pair of Pennsylvania psychologists recently dove into the empirical evidence tying the three together, asking college students to talk about their drug use, sex lives, and music preferences and talents to suss out whether people who play and enjoy rock music really do have more active sex lives and drug use.

Published in the journal Human Ethnology Bulletin, the study [PDF] of 467 students relied on self-reporting, which isn't typically the most reliable evidence—people are wont to exaggerate how often they've had sex, for instance—but the survey also asked them about their desires, posing questions like "If you could, how frequently would you have sex?" It also asked about how often the students drank and what drugs they had tried in their lifetimes. They also described their musical experience and what kind of music they listened to.

The results were mixed, but the researchers identified a relationship between liking faster, "harder" music and having more sex and doing more drugs. Acoustic indie rock aficionados weren't getting quite as wild as heavy metal fans. High-tempo-music lovers were more likely to have taken hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, for example, and tended to have had more sexual partners in the previous year than people who favored slower types of music. According to the study, previous research has found that attention-seeking people are more likely to enjoy "hard" music.

The study didn't have a diverse enough group either in age or in ethnicity to really begin to make sweeping generalizations about humans, especially since college students (the participants were between 18 and 25) tend to engage in more risky behaviors in general. But this could lay the groundwork for future research into the topic. Until then, it might be more accurate to change the phrase to "sex, drugs, and heavy metal."

[h/t PsyPost]

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