news item: savory and sweet a taste for infertility

The headline and brief blurb of the article are what pulled me in to read it: “taste cells found in testicles” and I knew I had to click the link and read more. What does that say about my reading interests? Well, never-you-mind.

What kept me reading was that this article was talking about the worldwide decline in male fertility and some new research that found a link between,

Some of the same genes that allow us to sense sweet and umami flavors are also active in a man’s testes and sperm. According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Tuesday, suppressing these genes may affect not only his ability to taste but also his ability to reproduce.

Scientists engineered the specific human genes  that control taste receptors and the proteins that relay those tastes to our brain into mice. They then deactivated them to see what would happen. Surprise of all surprises, the male mice became completely, 100%, sterile.

This is another link in figuring out the puzzle that is the decline of male fertility. Recently, at a gathering of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, the topic of a potential “sperm crisis[1]” was the subject of an entire day of this annual meeting.

Geneticist Bedrich Monsinger, who lead the team in this research, says “there is a worldwide decline in male fertility…We speculate that there is something in the environment causing this.”

Monsinger references specifically prescription drugs that have known side effects of blocking the gene controlling our taste receptors and also some commonly used herbicides.

This article, and the one referenced in the footnote below, are interesting to me as they bring to the forefront an often forgotten or ignored aspect of the fertility equation, and that is male infertility,  male subfertility, and the impact of ‘environmental factors’ on all aspects of fertility.

Check out Savory and Sweet: A Taste For Infertility, and also the Wall Street Journal article referenced in the footnote. Tell us what you think, what you found interesting, or any related news or blog this reminds you of. Below are some suggested prompts, but please don’t restrain your comments to just these questions.


At the end of the news article, the author spins the story away from issues of male fertility and talks about the research’s possible application to rodent birth control. Does this diminish the story for you? Does it do a disservice to those trying to remove the stigma of male infertility from our culture?

Research has shown clinical proof of environmental factors affecting sperm counts and function. Has this changed your lifestyle in any way? 

Were you offered a semen analysis as part of your initial fertility workup?


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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.

[1]“The Decline in Male Fertility”, by Shirley S. Wang, The Wall Street Journal.

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