No Sweet Tooth? You Might Be Sterile.

By Joelle Renstrom | Published

fertile Jabba
Jabba would appear to be quite fertile
I love how totally bizarre modern medication can be. It’s possible that head transplantswill soon become reality, brain implants can treat illness and give deaf people the ability to hear, and mind-controlled exoskeletons can restore mobility to paraplegics. So we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that scientists have found a connection between male sterility and the ability to taste sugary and savory flavors.

It’s almost like they put a bunch of random conditions into a bag and picked two.

Scientist Bedrich Mosinger of the Monell Center (“The world’s only independent, non-profit scientific institute dedicated to interdisciplinary basic research on the senses of taste and smell.”) studies genetics and the role of taste-signaling proteins on other bodily systems. He recently published a study about TAS1r receptors, which allow cells to sense or “taste” sugar and amino acids. It turns out that TAS1R and GNAT3, its associated protein gustducin, are strongly expressed in sperm.

Wow. The human body sure is weird, isn’t it? And I generally think that female bodies do even stranger stuff than male bodies, so it’s good that the guys are catching up.

Mosinger and his team did what any scientist in their position would — bring on the mice!

They suppressed TAS1r receptors in male mice and found that their sperm tended to be malformed and immobile. In other words, scientists were able to induce sterility (and now know how to solve a rat infestation). Mosinger’s team concluded that males need these taste receptors to produce healthy sperm.

bad sperm
The black dots are tailless sperm. Poor guys!

That hypothesis leads, then, to the possibility that TASR1 and GNAT3 activators may treat the causes of certain types of male infertility. They also believe that genetic inhibition isn’t the only factor that can affect the taste receptors — in previous studies they’ve found that common medications and environmental chemicals can also block TASR1 receptors.

Luckily, the study doesn’t conclude that a particularly robust sweet tooth increases fertility. Keep eating your fishfingers and custard, fellas!