Are Sperm Alive?

Ed Arias earias1 at uic.edu
Tue Dec 31 18:19:45 EST 1996


Sid Lipkin wrote:
> 
> Always wondered this...Is human sperm classed as a living creature?
>   Is there a genus of animals that it belongs to?  Can sperm survive
>   outside the human body(in a lab setting)?

I suppose you could say there "half-alive" being that they carry only
half the normal chromosomal content (be it female or male).  They feed
off surrounding nutrients and react to their environment in an
instinctual and predictable manner.  Human sperm are very hardy and can
live in a frozen state (cryopreservation) for years (ever hear of sperm
banks).  The only genus it can belong to is its own being it already
contains at least half the DNA.

>    What about anti-bodies?  are they Alive in the sense that we define life?
>      They have a purpose and act according to certain criteria?  is this life?

Antibodies are glycoproteins and are not alive but their progenitors, B
cells, are just as alive as sperm.  These are cells that also can live
outside the body (permanently as a colony...or cell line) and also react
to their environment...and have an entire chromosomal content.  Both
B-cells and sperm cells live longer than many multicellular
animals...like say a mayfly which only lives 24 hrs. (don't know how
long the larva live).  A B-cell can live for months and a sperm can be
frozen for years.

Of course, I don't really believe that these cells are "alive" as you
and I are alive...but it's fun to come up with similarities...which we
can only do depending on our definition of alive.

>   Sorry if this is uneducated...just curious

-- 
Ed Arias  -  "Just Say Know"
UIC Dept of Physiology & Biophysics
Chicago, IL 60612-7342



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