Friday Weird Science: the swimming of the sperm

Sci will admit that the sperm paper she picked for this week really is an excuse to use this image:
michael phelps sperm.png
But really, sperm swimming is an important questions in terms of fertility. An ovum is only viable for about 24 hours, and a female only produces one per month. Sperm are viable for a little longer than that, but still, timing is rough. And once you get past the timing, you get into sperm getting lost, sperm swimming in circles, sperm getting stuck in the vaginal mucosa, and sperm getting to the egg only to be thwarted by the zona pellucida and corona radiata (the corona radiata is a group of cells surrounding the egg, while the zona pellucida is a tough, thick protein lattice on the outside of the egg, inside the corona radiata. Tough barriers).
sperm shapes.png
(Who’s betting on the double-headed one?!)
So when it comes down to it, it takes more than a straight swimmer to make it to the egg. But what, exactly, does it take? Force, et al. “Membrane fluidity and lipid content of human spermatozoa selected by swim-up method”. International Journal of Andrology, 2001.

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An Open Letter to the American Chemical Society

Dear ACS,
You are the greatest. No really, you are. No matter what has happened to me through my years in graduate school, you, the ACS, have been by my side, sending me monthly issues of C&E News, offering to help me find jobs in the event of graduation, and never hesitating to show me the exotic place I could be going to for conferences if only I were a polymer chemist. I’ve gotten to go to special “seminars” which consist of a bunch of chemists sitting in a room, listing to an enologist, and then getting really, really drunk on local wines. It was a BLAST. I learned so much about tannins and grape skins. I think I picked the wrong profession.
Not only that, through all your love and care, Sci can sometimes look in the mirror, and smile brightly and say “I’m a CHEMIST!” Sometimes I almost even believe it. And then I look at my undergrad transcripts and LAUGH…
Through you, ACS, I see a brighter world. And you can only imagine how thrilled I was that you remembered our anniversary together. Every year, the ACS gives out mugs to their members, celebrating their years of service. My first year, young ACS member Sci got a Hydrogen mug, and last year was celebrated with a Helium. This year, Sci was very much looking forward to her anniversary, and the expected Lithium mug which was to come her way. Being a psychopharmacologist like she is, Lithium is an element that is near and dear to her heart and research interest.
(You can see where we are. Some day, Sci hopes to be a gold member.)
So you can imagine Sci’s dismay when she received her mug and it was…cracked. In half. Two little bits of foam and loose plastic wrap do not stand up to the US Postal Service. Sci had a moment of woe, but you were there for me, ACS! You were THERE!! And when I emailed and said how sad I was and how I really LIKED Lithium, you sent me another one!!!! And it arrived today. It is lovely and pristine, and I am NOT going to let the other lab members RUN OFF WITH IT like they did with the last two. This one is special. This one is MINE.
ACS, I love how much you care.
coffee love.jpg
Forever your Society minion,

Dopamine: Reach out and Touch Someone

As some of you may know by now, Sci blogs a bit about dopamine. Dopamine seems pretty simple at first look (one chemical, one transporter, five receptors, how hard can it be?), but in fact, dopamine modulates a huge number of processes, particularly those related to learning and motivation. We talk a lot about dopamine being a “pleasure” molecule, and in a way it in, but it’s more complicated than that. It’s not just pleasure, it’s motivation and reward processes, which in a way are deeper than just the pleasure you might feel at having sex or eating a pizza. Obviously dopamine can have some pretty big effects on things like, for example, motivated movement (Parkinson’s), or disregulated motivational processes (drug addiction).
But what about touch? Can dopamine levels influence how you process touch, and how well you can do on a test for it?
Pleger, et al. “Influence of dopaminergically mediated reward on somatosenory decision-making” PLoS Biology, 2009.

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Look at Us!!!!

Check it out you guys!
Look up!
Pretty pretty banner! All new and sparkly! We figured the old one was no good now that there are THREE neuro-nuts as opposed to one. Or two.
And this banner is all awesome, and due to the art of Irradiatus at Biochemical Soul. Check out his art! It’s some pretty sweet stuff. Thanks to Irradiatus for making us look like we’ve come in to 2009!

You might not be ready for college if…

You attended 5 classes of your Brain and Behavior course out of an 8 week summer session that meets daily, and stop going after the first exam. Which you failed. Repeating the exact same pattern from the previous semester when you were in my class.
And then…. your MOM shows up at my class to fight your grade battles for you, without you even being aware of it.

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Friday Weird Science: Watch out, Cyclists, the Priapism could get you

As some of you may know, Sci is a runner. Sci is not a cyclist. She tried. She did. It just…it hurts your BUTT!! Seriously. Nice to go fast, but… Also, Sci hears a little about runners getting hit by cars, but she hears a LOT about cyclists getting hit. Not very encouraging.
And here’s another thing that might make you think twice about entering the Tour Du France: Priapism. De Rose, et al. “Aterial priapism and cycling: a new worrisome reality?” Urology, 2001.
(In Sci’s opinion, the best thing about cycling. Ever.)
(Photos for Friday Weird Science are, as usual, probably NSFW. And I don’t want to hear whining about how I didn’t put that in the title! You’re reading about PRIAPISM, people! What did you think there would be, pics of Teddy Bears?)

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Apparently we’re being upgraded tonite, from about 7pm EST to 8am the next day. Ish. Sci is going to try and schedule a post for tomorrow morning, but can make no promises if the system isn’t back up. You were warned.