Indexed on: 24 May '16Published on: 24 May '16Published in: Scientific Reports
Sperm migration through the female tract is crucial to fertilization, but the role of the complex and confined structure of the fallopian tube in sperm guidance remains unknown. Here, by confocal imaging microchannels head-on, we distinguish corner- vs. wall- vs. bulk-swimming bull sperm in confined geometries. Corner-swimming dominates with local areal concentrations as high as 200-fold that of the bulk. The relative degree of corner-swimming is strongest in small channels, decreases with increasing channel size, and plateaus for channels above 200 μm. Corner-swimming remains predominant across the physiologically-relevant range of viscosity and pH. Together, boundary-following sperm account for over 95% of the sperm distribution in small rectangular channels, which is similar to the percentage of wall swimmers in circular channels of similar size. We also demonstrate that wall-swimming sperm travel closer to walls in smaller channels (~100 μm), where the opposite wall is within the hydrodynamic interaction length-scale. The corner accumulation effect is more than the superposition of the influence of two walls, and over 5-fold stronger than that of a single wall. These findings suggest that folds and corners are dominant in sperm migration in the narrow (sub-mm) lumen of the fallopian tube and microchannel-based sperm selection devices.