Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Seminal Worms and Meat Juices

Back in the high school biology lab, I, like the rest of the class, pricked my finger and placed a drop of blood on a glass slide, which I then looked at through the microscope.

I will tell you what else I do remember from back then.  I wondered if, like the biology book said, I might be able to see sperm in the semen.

No, I did not do that lab experiment.  Relax! ;)

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek did that for all of us.  No, he was not some lone guy doing strange things.  He was a married man, who fathered children.  Leeuwenhoek was one heck of a genius, and his insights gained from microscopes launched micrbiology.  His innumerable accomplishments are almost always dwarfed--in my evergreen teenage mind--by his observing the sperm ;)
Thanks to Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’s adventurous spirit, history marks him as the first person to actually see “seminal Worms”—as sperms were often called and spelled with that strange way of capitalizing nouns.
It is not merely about the sperm, however.  It played an important role in understanding procreation itself.  Keep in mind that back in the bad old days, most people believed in humans as god's creations.  Other than that, there was no clear understanding of what the man's "seeds" and the woman's monthly bleeding were all about.  Especially the blood, which continues to freak out people even today!

Leeuwenhoek's "contribution" was, therefore, "seminal". (This teen always looks for those awful pun possibilities!)
it’s completely astounding that a baby is made at all, let alone when you realize that just one out of millions of totally spastic sperms meets up with an egg. Reliving this moment of discovery in our species’ struggle to understand life’s mysteries shows we shouldn’t take our present knowledge for granted.
Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729–1799), also known in his day as “Magnifico,” "demonstrated that life does not arise spontaneously from “meat juices.”   That essay deserves to be read by all.

The latest in the pursuit of knowledge:
Sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years, researchers said on Tuesday.
They also said the rate of decline is not slowing.
The results, published in the journal Human Reproduction Update, showed a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and a 59.3 percent decline in total sperm count among North American, European, Australian and New Zealand men.
The former measures the concentration of semen in a man's ejaculation, while the latter is semen concentration multiplied by volume.
Are you thinking what I am thinking?  The poor research assistants in charge of dealing with the ejaculate! Lemme remind you that I am forever a giggling pimply teenager ;) 

All kidding aide, here is the significance:
"An unanswered question is whether the impact of whatever is causing declining sperm counts will be seen in future generations of children via epigenetic (gene modifications) or other mechanisms operating in sperm," he said in an emailed comment.
Richard Sharpe at Edinburgh University added: "Given that we still do not know what lifestyle, dietary or chemical exposures might have caused this decrease, research efforts to identify (them) need to be redoubled and to be non-presumptive as to cause."


Ramesh said...

When I read that news item I was certain that you would blog about it :)

The problem is all with Amercian men. It doesn't say anything about Indian men. So its your problem, not mine !!! Muhahahahaha

Sriram Khé said...

This blog is always "seminal"

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