Sperm Cannot Detect Smells: End of 'Lily of the Valley Phenomenon' in Sperm Research? Max Planck Society Study

Published: Feb 29, 2012

According to a 2003 study by German and American scientists, a component of the Lily of the Valley scent known as Bourgeonal alters the calcium balance of human sperm and attracts the sperm. The "Lily of the Valley phenomenon" -- also the title of a book about smelling -- was born as a result of this discovery that sperm act as swimming olfactory cells which follow a "scent trail" laid by the egg. However, a detailed explanation for the Lily of the Valley phenomenon remained illusive as neither Bourgeonal nor other scents could be identified in the female sex organ. Scientists from the caesar research centre in Bonn, an Institute of the Max Planck Society, have now discovered that sperm do not function like olfactory cells -- a finding that casts doubt on the assumption that scents play a role in fertilisation.

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