Understanding Sperm Heterogeneity: Biological and Practical Implications


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Abstract

ContentsSperm are the most diverse cell type known. This diversity is thought to reflect adaptation to conditions under which sperm function as a way to ensure the survival of sperm in fertilization environments and to maximize fertilizing capacity thereof. The existence of morphological diversity among species is widely assumed, although this diversity seems less clear as we go deeper (between males, between ejaculates from the same male and even within the same ejaculate), with different theories addressing this heterogeneity. Moreover, the development of assisted reproductive techniques (ART) has led to changes in the physiological conditions in which sperm fertilize, which could lead, ultimately, to a selection towards more favourable sperm design. Regardless of the origin of this diversity, when studying the relationship between shape and function of sperm, it is advisable to assess the degree of heterogeneity of sperm and takes into account to be more likely to identify those morphological characteristics determining the fertile ability of sperm. Otherwise, these relationships could be hidden as a result of considering an average shape not representative of morphological characteristics of sperm. In addition, the knowledge of this morphological diversity in terms of changes arising from modifications in the sperm environment and mechanisms that generate these changes could be useful for understanding the reproductive capacity of males but also in enhancing their fertile ability.

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