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Concept: Ovulation

263

Development of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the dog has resisted progress for decades, due to their unique reproductive physiology. This lack of progress is remarkable given the critical role ART could play in conserving endangered canid species or eradicating heritable disease through gene-editing technologies-an approach that would also advance the dog as a biomedical model. Over 350 heritable disorders/traits in dogs are homologous with human conditions, almost twice the number of any other species. Here we report the first live births from in vitro fertilized embryos in the dog. Adding to the practical significance, these embryos had also been cryopreserved. Changes in handling of both gametes enabled this progress. The medium previously used to capacitate sperm excluded magnesium because it delayed spontaneous acrosome exocytosis. We found that magnesium significantly enhanced sperm hyperactivation and ability to undergo physiologically-induced acrosome exocytosis, two functions essential to fertilize an egg. Unlike other mammals, dogs ovulate a primary oocyte, which reaches metaphase II on Days 4-5 after the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge. We found that only on Day 6 are oocytes consistently able to be fertilized. In vitro fertilization of Day 6 oocytes with sperm capacitated in medium supplemented with magnesium resulted in high rates of embryo development (78.8%, n = 146). Intra-oviductal transfer of nineteen cryopreserved, in vitro fertilization (IVF)-derived embryos resulted in seven live, healthy puppies. Development of IVF enables modern genetic approaches to be applied more efficiently in dogs, and for gamete rescue to conserve endangered canid species.

Concepts: Ovulation, Meiosis, Reproduction, Canidae, Zygote, Spermatozoon, Dog, In vitro fertilisation

180

Previous research has documented shifts in women’s attractions to their romantic partner and to men other than their partner across the ovulation cycle, contingent on the degree to which her partner displays hypothesized indicators of high-fitness genes. The current study set out to replicate and extend this finding. Forty-one couples in which the woman was naturally cycling participated. Female partners reported their feelings of in-pair attraction and extra-pair attraction on two occasions, once on a low-fertility day of the cycle and once on a high-fertility day of the cycle just prior to ovulation. Ovulation was confirmed using luteinizing hormone tests. We collected two measures of male partner sexual attractiveness. First, the women in the study rated their partner’s sexual attractiveness. Second, we photographed the partners and had the photos independently rated for attractiveness. Shifts in women’s in-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by women’s ratings of partner sexual attractiveness, such that the less sexually attractive women rated their partner, the less in-pair attraction they reported at high fertility compared with low fertility (partial r = .37, p(dir) = .01). Shifts in women’s extra-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by third-party ratings of partner attractiveness, such that the less attractive the partner was, the more extra-pair attraction women reported at high relative to low fertility (partial r = -.33, p(dir) = .03). In line with previous findings, we found support for the hypothesis that the degree to which a woman’s romantic partner displays indicators of high-fitness genes affects women’s attractions to their own partner and other men at high fertility.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Woman, Sexuality, Menstrual cycle, Luteinizing hormone, Physical attractiveness, Estrogen, Ovulation

168

Previous studies have demonstrated variable influences of sexual hormonal states on female brain activation and the necessity to control for these in neuroimaging studies. However, systematic investigations of these influences, particularly those of hormonal contraceptives as compared to the physiological menstrual cycle are scarce. In the present study, we investigated the hormonal modulation of neural correlates of erotic processing in a group of females under hormonal contraceptives (C group; N = 12), and a different group of females (nC group; N = 12) not taking contraceptives during their mid-follicular and mid-luteal phases of the cycle. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure hemodynamic responses as an estimate of brain activation during three different experimental conditions of visual erotic stimulation: dynamic videos, static erotic pictures, and expectation of erotic pictures. Plasma estrogen and progesterone levels were assessed in all subjects. No strong hormonally modulating effect was detected upon more direct and explicit stimulation (viewing of videos or pictures) with significant activations in cortical and subcortical brain regions previously linked to erotic stimulation consistent across hormonal levels and stimulation type. Upon less direct and less explicit stimulation (expectation), activation patterns varied between the different hormonal conditions with various, predominantly frontal brain regions showing significant within- or between-group differences. Activation in the precentral gyrus during the follicular phase in the nC group was found elevated compared to the C group and positively correlated with estrogen levels. From the results we conclude that effects of hormonal influences on brain activation during erotic stimulation are weak if stimulation is direct and explicit but that female sexual hormones may modulate more subtle aspects of sexual arousal and behaviour as involved in sexual expectation. Results may provide a basis for future imaging studies on sexual processing in females, especially in the context of less explicit erotic stimulation.

Concepts: Endometrium, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Ovulation, Cerebral cortex, Hormonal contraception, Progesterone, Magnetic resonance imaging, Menstrual cycle

137

An affordable, user-friendly fertility-monitoring tool remains an unmet need. We examine in this study the correlation between pulse rate (PR) and the menstrual phases using wrist-worn PR sensors. 91 healthy, non-pregnant women, between 22-42 years old, were recruited for a prospective-observational clinical trial. Participants measured PR during sleep using wrist-worn bracelets with photoplethysmographic sensors. Ovulation day was estimated with “Clearblue Digital-Ovulation-urine test”. Potential behavioral and nutritional confounders were collected daily. 274 ovulatory cycles were recorded from 91 eligible women, with a mean cycle length of 27.3 days (±2.7). We observed a significant increase in PR during the fertile window compared to the menstrual phase (2.1 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01). Moreover, PR during the mid-luteal phase was also significantly elevated compared to the fertile window (1.8 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01), and the menstrual phase (3.8 beat-per-minute, p < 0.01). PR increase in the ovulatory and mid-luteal phase was robust to adjustment for the collected confounders. There is a significant increase of the fertile-window PR (collected during sleep) compared to the menstrual phase. The aforementioned association was robust to the inter- and intra-person variability of menstrual-cycle length, behavioral, and nutritional profiles. Hence, PR monitoring using wearable sensors could be used as one parameter within a multi-parameter fertility awareness-based method.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Scientific method, Observational study, Ovulation, Menstrual cycle

105

Several theories about the origins of music have emphasized its biological and social functions, including in courtship. Music may act as a courtship display due to its capacity to vary in complexity and emotional content. Support for music’s reproductive function comes from the recent finding that only women in the fertile phase of the reproductive cycle prefer composers of complex melodies to composers of simple ones as short-term sexual partners, which is also in line with the ovulatory shift hypothesis. However, the precise mechanisms by which music may influence sexual attraction are unknown, specifically how music may interact with visual attractiveness cues and affect perception and behaviour in both genders. Using a crossmodal priming paradigm, we examined whether listening to music influences ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability of opposite-sex faces. We also tested whether misattribution of arousal or pleasantness underlies these effects, and explored whether sex differences and menstrual cycle phase may be moderators. Our sample comprised 64 women in the fertile or infertile phase (no hormonal contraception use) and 32 men, carefully matched for mood, relationship status, and musical preferences. Musical primes (25 s) varied in arousal and pleasantness, and targets were photos of faces with neutral expressions (2 s). Group-wise analyses indicated that women, but not men, gave significantly higher ratings of facial attractiveness and dating desirability after having listened to music than in the silent control condition. High-arousing, complex music yielded the largest effects, suggesting that music may affect human courtship behaviour through induced arousal, which calls for further studies on the mechanisms by which music affects sexual attraction in real-life social contexts.

Concepts: Fertility, Affect, Physical attractiveness, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Birth control, Hormonal contraception, Ovulation, Menstrual cycle

70

Sex hormones fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. Evidence from animal studies suggests similar subtle fluctuations in hippocampal structure, predominantly linked to estrogen. Hippocampal abnormalities have been observed in several neuropsychiatric pathologies with prominent sexual dimorphism. Yet, the potential impact of subtle sex-hormonal fluctuations on human hippocampal structure in health is unclear. We tested the feasibility of longitudinal neuroimaging in conjunction with rigorous menstrual cycle monitoring to evaluate potential changes in hippocampal microstructure associated with physiological sex-hormonal changes. Thirty longitudinal diffusion weighted imaging scans of a single healthy female subject were acquired across two full menstrual cycles. We calculated hippocampal fractional anisotropy (FA), a measure sensitive to changes in microstructural integrity, and investigated potential correlations with estrogen. We observed a significant positive correlation between FA values and estrogen in the hippocampus bilaterally, revealing a peak in FA closely paralleling ovulation. This exploratory, single-subject study demonstrates the feasibility of a longitudinal DWI scanning protocol across the menstrual cycle and is the first to link subtle endogenous hormonal fluctuations to changes in FA in vivo. In light of recent attempts to neurally phenotype single humans, our findings highlight menstrual cycle monitoring in parallel with highly sampled individual neuroimaging data to address fundamental questions about the dynamics of plasticity in the adult brain.

Concepts: Corpus luteum, Progesterone, Estradiol, Endometrium, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Menopause, Ovulation, Menstrual cycle

48

The endocrine system dynamically controls tissue differentiation and homeostasis, but has not been studied using dynamic tissue culture paradigms. Here we show that a microfluidic system supports murine ovarian follicles to produce the human 28-day menstrual cycle hormone profile, which controls human female reproductive tract and peripheral tissue dynamics in single, dual and multiple unit microfluidic platforms (Solo-MFP, Duet-MFP and Quintet-MPF, respectively). These systems simulate the in vivo female reproductive tract and the endocrine loops between organ modules for the ovary, fallopian tube, uterus, cervix and liver, with a sustained circulating flow between all tissues. The reproductive tract tissues and peripheral organs integrated into a microfluidic platform, termed EVATAR, represents a powerful new in vitro tool that allows organ-organ integration of hormonal signalling as a phenocopy of menstrual cycle and pregnancy-like endocrine loops and has great potential to be used in drug discovery and toxicology studies.

Concepts: Cervix, Ovulation, Ovary, Female reproductive system, Puberty, Menopause, Menstrual cycle, Reproductive system

37

The corpus luteum, a temporally established endocrine gland, formed on the ovary from remaining cells of the ovulated follicle, plays a key role in maintaining the early mammalian pregnancy by secreting progesterone. Despite being a monovular species, 2-12 corpora lutea (CLs) were found on the elephant ovaries during their long pregnancy lasting on average 640 days. However, the function and the formation of the additional CLs and their meaning remain unexplained. Here, we show from the example of the elephant, the close relationship between the maternally determined luteal phase length, the formation of multiple luteal structures and their progestagen secretion, the timespan of early embryonic development until implantation and maternal recognition. Through three-dimensional and Colour Flow ultrasonography of the ovaries and the uterus, we conclude that pregnant elephants maintain active CL throughout gestation that appear as main source of progestagens. Two LH peaks during the follicular phase ensure the development of a set of 5.4 ± 2.7 CLs. Accessory CLs (acCLs) form prior to ovulation after the first luteinizing hormone (LH) peak, while the ovulatory CL (ovCL) forms after the second LH peak. After five to six weeks (the normal luteal phase lifespan), all existing CLs begin to regress. However, they resume growing as soon as an embryo becomes ultrasonographically apparent on day 49 ± 2. After this time, all pregnancy CLs grow significantly larger than in a non-conceptive luteal phase and are maintained until after parturition. The long luteal phase is congruent with a slow early embryonic development and luteal rescue only starts ‘last minute’, with presumed implantation of the embryo. Our findings demonstrate a highly successful reproductive solution, different from currently described mammalian models.

Concepts: Human chorionic gonadotropin, Luteinizing hormone, Embryo, Pregnancy, Endometrium, Menstrual cycle, Ovulation, Corpus luteum

33

Previous studies have shown changes in women’s behavior and physical appearance between the non-fertile and fertile phases of the menstrual cycle. It is assumed that these changes are regulated by fluctuations in sex hormone levels across the cycle. Receptors for sex hormones have been found on the vocal folds, suggesting a link between hormone levels and vocal fold function, which might cause changes in voice production. However, attempts to identify changes in voice production across the menstrual cycle have produced mixed results. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate changes in sexually dimorphic vocal characteristics and quality of women’s voices in different phases of the cycle and to compare these with users of monophasic hormonal contraception. Voice samples (vowel phonation) of 44 naturally cycling women were obtained in the menstrual, late follicular (confirmed by LH surge) and luteal phases, and in 20 hormonal contraceptive users across equivalent stages of the monthly cycle. Results showed that voices of naturally cycling women had higher minimum pitch in the late follicular phase compared with the other phases. In addition, voice intensity was at its lowest in the luteal phase. In contrast, there were no voice changes across the cycle in hormonal contraceptive users. Comparison between the two groups of women revealed that the naturally cycling group had higher minimum pitch in the fertile phase and higher harmonics to noise ratio in the menstrual phase. In general, present results support the assumption that sex hormones might have an effect on voice function. These results, coupled with mixed findings in previous studies, suggest that vocal changes in relation to hormonal fluctuation are subtle, at least during vowel production. Future studies should explore voice changes in a defined social context and with more free-flowing speech.

Concepts: Implanon, Emergency contraception, Human voice, Combined oral contraceptive pill, Hormonal contraception, Ovulation, Birth control, Menstrual cycle

33

Patients with olfactory dysfunction benefit from repeated exposure to odors, so-called olfactory training (OT). This does not mean occasional smelling but the structured sniffing of a defined set of odors, twice daily, for a period of 4 months or longer. In this prospective study, we investigated whether the effect of OT might increase through the use of more odors and extension of the training period.

Concepts: Ovulation, Olfactometer, Intensional definition, Electronic nose, Olfactory fatigue, Extensional definition, Odor, Olfaction