Sperm sometimes don’t swim very fast. In fact, one in five men have been diagnosed with slow-swimmers. This can cause infertility. The answer? Give the sperm little flippers to wear, so they can swim faster.
Well, they’re not really flippers: they’re tiny metal coils that fit around the sperm’s tail. According to a recent story in the Daily Mail, researchers from the Institute for Integrative Nanosciences at IFW Dresden created these coils from titanium and nickel. After fitting one onto a sperm, they beam a rotating magnetic field at it, and the coil starts to turn, like a propeller on an outboard motor on a fishing boat. So forget paddling — just fire up the motor and head for the egg. Once the sperm makes contact, it pierces the eggshell with its beak, wiggles itself inside, shedding the propeller as it does so.
Known as “spermbots,” these little propellers have shown some success during testing, although they are still in the early stages of development. Researchers have noted they “are not overly harmful to sperm,” but further testing is needed to determine how safe they are, and how effective they will be.
Bill Rogers is a Toronto-based lawyer, journalist, and family law mediator.