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Some sperm win the race by poisoning their competitors


In mice, at least:

It is literally a race for life when millions of sperm swim towards the egg cells to fertilize them. But does pure luck decide which sperm succeeds? As it turns out, there are differences in competitiveness between individual sperm. In mice, a “selfish” and naturally occurring DNA segment breaks the standard rules of genetic inheritance – and awards a success rate of up to 99 percent to sperm cells containing it.

A team of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin describes how the genetic factor called “t-haplotype” promotes the fertilization success of sperm carrying it.

The researchers for the first time showed experimentally that sperm with the t-haplotype are more progressive, i.e., move faster forward than their “normal” peers, and thereby establish their advantage in fertilization. The researchers analyzed individual sperm and revealed that most of the cells that made only little progress on their paths were genetically “normal”, whereas straight moving sperm mostly contained the t-haplotype. …

“Sperm with the t-haplotype manage to disable sperm without it,” says Bernhard Herrmann, Director at the MPIMG and of the Institute of Medical Genetics at Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, and corresponding author of the study. “The trick is that the t?haplotype “poisons” all sperm, but at the same time produces an antidote, which acts only in t-sperm and protects them,” explains the scientist. “Imagine a marathon, in which all participants get poisoned drinking water, but some runners also take an antidote.”

Max Planck Institute, “Some Sperms Poison Their Competitors: A Genetic Factor Helps Sperm Cells Outcompete Their Peers” at SciTech Daily

Not “pure luck,” they say. Nature is full of intelligence, some of it nasty.

The paper. is open access.

It’s a lot like Russian politics then. See Today’s Russian diplomacy: Deepfakes and radioactive poisons Because deepfakes are getting harder to spot, American news platforms waste time and energy trying to root them out. Analyst Denise Simon says Russia is putting a great deal of emphasis on catching up with the United States in AI but resorts to old-fashioned poisoning now and then.


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