The fluid dynamics of sperm motility

29 January 2009
Dave Smith
Sperm cells have been an archetype for very low Reynolds number swimming since the pioneering work of Gray & Hancock in the 1950s. However, there are fundamental questions regarding the swimming and function of mammalian, and particularly human sperm, that are unanswered, and moreover scientific and technological developments mean that for the first time, answering these questions is now possible. I will present results of our interdisciplinary work on two topics: (1) the relatively famous problem of 'surface accumulation' of sperm, and (2) characterising the changes to the flagellar beat that occur in high viscosity liquids such as cervical mucus. The approach we use combines both mathematical modelling and high speed imaging experiments. I will then discuss areas we are currently developing: quantifying the energy transport requirements of sperm, and understanding chemotaxis - the remarkable ability of human sperm to 'smell' lily of the valley perfume, which may be important in fertilisation.
  • Differential Equations and Applications Seminar