Lily of the Valley Spurs Sperm On

Published Online: Thursday, May 1, 2003

A newly discovered odor receptor on the sperm?s surface could enable researchers to come up with alternative contraceptive methods or ways to boost fertility. According to a 3-year study by Prof. Hans Hatt at Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, human sperm become excited when exposed to the scent of lily of the valley, doubling their speed and homing in on the aroma. "This is the first time sperm has been shown to respond to smell," he said. "The application of the substances in a salve to the vaginal area could raise the chance of conceiving."

Receptors in the sperm?s membranes are attached to 2 chemical compounds, cyclamal and bourgeonal, which are used in the cosmetics industry to imitate the plant?s smell. He also hypothesizes that another compound, undecanal, blocked the attraction and could be used for contraceptive purposes.

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