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Micro-Robotic Swimmers Inspired by Bacteria, Sperm Cells Could One Day Be Used For Targeted Drug Delivery

Engineers are finding inspiration from nature to build new technologies that could help people. Some find inspiration in the mechanics of bird flight and the intricate architecture of bee nests, Now, scientists from Cornell University led by Professor Mingming Wu are taking inspiration from smaller organisms.

This article is a repost which originally appeared on The Science Times
Margaret Davis - September 24, 2021
Edited for content and readability Images sourced from Pexels
DIO: http://dx.doi.org/10.1039/D1LC00575H

According to Phys.org, the team created cell-size robots that can be powered by ultrasound waves to move. These micro-robotic swimmers are inspired by the movements of bacteria and sperm, which could be used as a new tool for targeted drug delivery.

Micro-Robotic Swimmers Mobility Inspired by Microorganisms

Wu’s lab had been studying the ways microorganisms, such as bacteria and sperm, move, communicate in their environment. Their main goal is to develop micro-robotic swimmers that can navigate inside the body.

Wu said that they were inspired by how microorganisms are doing much better than humans after undergoing billions of years of evolution. Among their notable attributes are their ability to swim 10 times faster than their body’s length in one second, while sperm cells can swim against the flow.

They designed and 3D-printed the micro-robots that mimicked how bacteria would use their flagellum to propel themselves. These can help send medicine to specific areas in the body, like cancer cells, without harming the healthy cells and cause side effects.

Using Ultrasound Waves to Power Micro-Robotic Swimmers

In their paper, titled “Biologically Inspired Micro-Robotic Swimmers Remotely Controlled by Ultrasound Waves” published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Lab on a Chip, researchers reported that they used ultrasound waves to remotely power them.

Wu said that sperm and bacteria consume organic material in their surroundings to move, but for these engineered micro-robots it is challenging to make them move because a battery would be too heavy for them to carry.

According to Nano magazine, the team thought of using high-frequency sound waves because ultrasound is quiet and easily used in an experimental laboratory setting. More so, the US Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe for clinical studies.

Former postdoctoral researcher Tao Luo collaborated with the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF) to create a triangular micro-robotic swimmer that resembles a cross of an insect and rocket ship. It has a pair of cavities etched in its back where a tiny bubble of air is trapped when submerged in a solution.

Using the ultrasound transducer, the air bubble oscillates and generates vortices or a streaming flow that pushes the micro-robotic swimmer forward. The team from Cornell is the first to demonstrate a micro-robotic swimmer that uses two bubbles, unlike previous swimmers that only use one.

The researchers can trigger either of the two air bubbles by varying the resonance frequency of the sound waves, Technology Networks reported. That way they can control which direction the micro-robotic swimmers will move.

Now that they found a way to make it move, the next challenge is to make them biocompatible for them to navigate among blood cells. Researchers also said that future micro-robotic swimmers should be made with biodegradable materials so they can be dispatched at once, much like how many sperms are released for fertilization to be successful. So if one failed during its journey, that will not be a problem.

 

Why more men are suffering from infertility than ever before

Why more men are suffering from infertility than ever before

By Susannah Cahalan

February 20, 2021 | 8:28am | Updated

This article is a repost which originally appeared on NEWYORKPOST

Edited for content.

Men’s average sperm counts are down globally and testosterone levels have plunged, while erectile dysfunction is, cruelly, on the rise.

Sperm counts in Western countries have dropped by more than 50 percent since the 1970s. At the same time, men’s problems with conceiving are going up: Erectile dysfunction is increasing and testosterone levels are declining by 1 percent each year.

“The current state of reproductive affairs can’t continue much longer without threatening human survival,” warns Mount Sinai fertility scientist Dr. Shanna Swan in her book, “Count Down” (Scribner), out Tuesday. “It’s a global existential crisis.”

Dr. Swan should know — she’s been researching fertility for thirty years. She studied a miscarriage boom in Santa Clara, Calif., in the 1980s, which she eventually linked to toxic waste dumped into the drinking water by a local semiconductor plant. She moved on to sperm rates in 1997 and they’ve been her “canary in a coal mine scenario” since. In 2017, she sounded the alarm with a meta-analysis of 40,000 men that showed that sperm count fell a whopping 59 percent between 1973 and 2011.

Environmental, chemical and physical factors point to men's low sperm count.
Author Shanna Swan is warning of a global infertility crisis — and urging men to change their habits.
Shutterstock

We are already seeing the effects. Worldwide fertility has dropped by 50 percent between 1960 and 2015. The United States has a total birth rate that is 16 percent below what it needs to replace itself. Though there are obvious factors at play (couples are conceiving later and opting to have smaller families), Swan argues that the issues run deeper than personal choice.

Rates of miscarriages are on the rise and girls are experiencing earlier and earlier puberties (in some cases before the age of 8). “In some parts of the world, the average twenty-something woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” Swan writes.

Binge eating in front of the tv may negatively impact men because of long periods of sitting.
Sitting for too long in one place can hurt sperm production, Swan warns.
Getty Images

It’s no wonder then that the assisted reproduction technology market is worth about $21 billion and is projected to increase by 10 percent annually until 2025.

Still, fertility issues have been focused on women for too long.

“If women want to have a baby, they are often told, ‘Clean up your act,’ ” Swan writes. “But it’s probably more important for men to do so.”

Normal sperm count ranges from 15 million sperm per milliliter to 200 million per milliliter. Though the World Health Organization deems a rate below 15 million as “low,” Swan argues that anything below 40 million creates challenges for reproduction. Today the average male is nearing that number at 47.1 million sperm per milliliter. Compare him to his father, who had an average of 99 million sperm per milliliter, and it’s clear that this is a deeply worrying trend.

Not only do men today have less sperm than their fathers, but they also have lower testosterone levels. A 2006 study showed that a 65-year-old man in 2002 would have testosterone levels that are 15 percent lower than a 65-year-old man in 1987. A similar drop has been noted in young adults and adolescents, according to a 2020 Urology Times Journal article.

Saunas are notorious sperm overheaters.
Saunas are notorious sperm overheaters.
Getty Images

As a result, prescriptions for testosterone replacement therapies doubled between 2010 and 2013, according to Forbes, but there was one troubling side effect: “90 percent of men can have their sperm counts drop to zero while they’re on it,” Swan writes.

Sexual desire has followed a similar path. “A massive sexual slump is underway, due to declines in people’s sex drives and interest in sexual activity,” Swan writes. Men now seek help for erectile dysfunction on average seven years earlier than they did in 2005 and 26 percent of men who deal with it are under the age of 40.

A massive sexual slump is underway, due to declines in sex drives.

fertility scientist Dr. Shanna Swan

On the more extreme end of things, there have been overall increases in genital abnormalities, including higher documented rates of undescended testicles and unusually small penises. These issues have been mirrored in the animal kingdom. Baltic gray seals have reduced reproductive abilities, polar bears have smaller genitals and lower-than-average testosterone levels, and alligators, panthers and minks have all shown increases in reproductive and genital abnormalities.

So, what is going on?

Many of us simply eat too many things that are not good for us, move too little, drink too much alcohol, and engage in habits that are actively hindering our reproductive abilities, Swan writes.

But other things are out of our control.

Men who cycle for ninety minutes or more per week had 34 percent lower sperm concentrations than those who didn’t ride bicycles at all.
Men who cycle for ninety minutes or more per week have 34 percent lower sperm concentrations than those who don’t ride bicycles at all.
Getty Images

Swan points to the plastics and chemicals in our immediate environments, compounds that disrupt the hormonal systems of both men and women and make it harder to reproduce. One example she cites, for example, phthalates — near ubiquitous chemicals that make plastic more flexible and cosmetics and beauty products better able to absorb scent. These chemicals have been linked to the decreased production of hormones, like testosterone, and “male reproductive outcomes,” according to a 2018 review of research.

Flame retardants found in mattresses and foam furniture also seem to alter the same hormones that cause infertility in men, according to a 2016 study in the Reproductive Toxicology journal. In addition, chemicals used as stain, water, and grease repellents in fast-food packaging, paper plates, and stain-resistant carpeting, among other household items, have been linked to a reduction in semen quality, testicular volume, and even penis length.

Pesticides also seem to have negative effects on male fertility. One herbicide in particular called atrazine, used to prevent certain weeds from growing in corn and sugarcane on lawns and golf courses, has been linked with lower sperm quality.

Plastics in our immediate environments (like shower curtains), compounds that disrupt the hormonal systems of both men and women.
Vinyl shower curtains may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals, Swan writes.
Alamy

Infertility doesn’t just alter a man’s ability to make children, it also increases his mortality risk. Infertile men die younger than their infertile peers, according to a Stanford University study. Men with sperm concentration lower than 15 million per milliliter had a 50 percent greater chance of being hospitalized for any medical reason at all, and poor fertility has been linked with higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and cancers.

But there are some things we can do to help tip the scales.

The first step is to quit smoking, cut down on drinking, and maintain a healthy weight. Cigarette smoke is associated with reduced sperm count and increased sperm defects. Drinking heavily (more than 25 units per week) is also hazardous to sperm. (Interestingly, though, keeping to seven drinks a week seems to increase sperm production compared to those who don’t drink.)

Non organic fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, tend to be most contaminated by pesticides and herbicides that may mess with male hormones.
Swan advises men to buy organic to avoid pesticides and herbicides that may mess with male hormones, especially items that tend to be most contaminated, like strawberries.
Shutterstock

Meanwhile, men who cycle for ninety minutes or more per week had 34 percent lower sperm concentrations than those who didn’t ride bicycles at all, according to one study. And saunas are notorious sperm overheaters. Binging on TV also reduces sperm count (perhaps because sitting for too long in one place can hurt sperm production), while men who work out vigorously tend to have higher sperm counts, according to a Chinese study on potential sperm donors. So stay out of the sauna, get off that bicycle, and find other ways to exercise.

Also, cut down on stress. A Danish study showed that men who reported the highest levels of work stress had 38 percent lower sperm concentrations. Swan’s own research supports this. “Men who’ve experienced two or more recent stressful life events — such as the death or serious illness of a close relative, divorce or serious relationship problems, moving, or a job change — were more likely to have below-normal sperm concentration,” she writes.

Banishing air fresheners and using nontoxic household cleaners can steer you away from those hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Banishing air fresheners and using nontoxic household cleaners may also help men’s sperm counts.
Shutterstock

A high intake of full-fat dairy foods, especially cheese, has also been linked with greater sperm abnormalities. “These unfortunate effects might be due to the large amounts of estrogens in dairy products or to the presence of environmental contaminants such as pesticides and chlorinated pollutants in these products,” Swan writes.

In addition, men who eat a lot of processed meats (hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami) tend to have lower sperm counts and a lower percentage of normally shaped sperm. The theory is that “the curing of meat produces chemicals . . . that can cause cancer and also damage DNA, including DNA in sperm,” writes Swan.

Research shows that couples who follow the Mediterranean diet (whole grains, good fats, lots of veggies) while undergoing IVF treatments had a 40 percent higher likelihood of conceiving than those who didn’t.
Research shows that couples who follow the Mediterranean diet (whole grains, good fats, lots of veggies) while undergoing IVF treatments had a 40 percent higher likelihood of conceiving than those who didn’t.
Shutterstock

Research shows that couples who follow the Mediterranean diet (whole grains, good fats, lots of veggies) while undergoing IVF treatments had a 40 percent higher likelihood of conceiving than those who didn’t. Swan also urges people to buy organic to avoid pesticides and herbicides that may mess with male hormones, especially items that tend to be most contaminated, like strawberries, spinach, kale, apples and grapes. She also suggests that people avoid any animal product that is not organic and try to buy animal products labeled as “raised without antibiotics” or “no added hormones.”

"Count Down" by Shanna Swan

She also urges people to avoid cleaners and skin-care products that are antibacterial, and favor products labeled “paraben-free” and “phthalate free.” In addition, she urges ditching vinyl shower curtains, banishing air fresheners and using nontoxic household cleaners to dodge some of those hormone-disrupting chemicals. Swan also advises that dusting more dutifully will help relieve your house (and body) of a nasty buildup of chemicals. A 2017 study showed that 45 potentially harmful chemicals, including phthalates and flame retardants, were found in dust buildup in 90 percent of the homes sampled in one study in the United States.

The goal here is to be more proactive about our reproductive health.

“We can no longer afford to behave as though it’s business as usual,” Swan writes. “The time has come for us to stop playing Russian roulette with our reproductive capacities. It’s up to us to heed the message and take steps to protect our legacies.”

Men’s Health Month – Testicular health

Men’s Health Month – Testicular health

Leigh Day

This article is a repost which originally appeared on LEXOLOGY

Edited for content

United Kingdom November 23 2020

We have reached the end of Men’s Health Awareness Month and we are now heading towards our first Coronavirus Christmas. My November has been spent in lockdown, glued to the US election whilst growing a tashe for Movember, a month-long charity event set up to highlight and fundraise for men’s health causes that include mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

Did you know that in the UK, men visit their GP on average half as many times as women? On top of this worrying statistic is the fact that we are currently stuck in a global pandemic that has no end in sight. In April 2020, NHS England found that four out of 10 people were not seeking help from their GP because they were afraid of being a burden during a pandemic.

Being a burden should never be a consideration for not visiting your GP if you are worried about your health, regardless of how big or small you perceive the problem to be. The sooner a problem is shared, the quicker it can be solved.

One area that is important for men not to ignore is testicular health. Testicles are responsible for the production of sperm and also testosterone so it is vital we look after them.

Problems with your testicles can start when you develop a lump or a swelling. Whilst both these are not usually caused by anything serious, you should always speak with a doctor and get them checked.

The longer a problem with your testicles is left untreated, the worse it can get. With some testicular problems, time is very much of the essence and if you don’t act fast, there can be serious consequences.

In my role as a healthcare solicitor at Leigh Day, I have come across three different types of testicular problems where early discovery and diagnosis is vital to having the best long-term outcome. It is important that we all know the early signs of these problems, so that we seek GP advice if we are worried.

Testicular Cancer

Testicular cancer is where a tumour forms on or inside one of the testicles. Typical symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A painless swelling or lump in one of the testicles,
  • A change in shape, texture, firmness or appearance of a testicle,
  • A dull intermittent ache or pain or the feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.

Testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer of men between the ages of 15 and 49 years old in the UK. It is also one of the most treatable types of cancer and it has a survival rate of above 95 per cent. However, if undiagnosed, the cancer can spread further than your testicles and become far more complicated to treat.

Testicular Torsion

Testicular torsion is when the testicle twists around the spermatic cord. When this happens, it cuts off the blood flow to the testicle. Symptoms of a testicular torsion include:

  • A sudden, severe pain on one side of the scrotum,
  • Swelling of the scrotum,
  • Abdominal pain,
  • Nausea and vomiting,
  • A testicle that’s positioned higher than normal or at an unusual angle,
  • Frequent urination,
  • Fever

A testicular torsion can happen at any time – during exercise, sitting, standing or even sleeping. It is a medical emergency and should be treated within four to six hours of the onset of pain. If the blood supply is not restored quickly, it will cause the testicle to shrink and die.

Testicular Infection

Epididymitis is a testicular infection where the tube at the back of the testicle becomes painful and swollen. Symptoms of epididymitis include:

  • A sudden or gradual pain in one or both testicles,
  • The scrotum feeling warm, tender and swollen,
  • A build-up of fluid around the testicle that feels like a lump or swelling

Whilst epididymitis can be treated easily with antibiotics, if it is ignored it can spread to the testicle and can lead to chronic testicular pain, the growth of an abscess, infertility and the loss of your testicle.

Examining yourself

It is important to examine your testicles once a month to check for any changes, swellings or lumps. The best time to do this is after you have taken a bath or shower by resting your testicles in the palm of your hand, and gently rolling each one between a finger and your thumb. For further information on examining yourself, please visit the Movember “guide to checking your nuts”.

If you find something strange, are experiencing swelling or sudden and unexplained pain in one or both of your testicles, don’t stew over whether it’s serious or not – get checked out by a doctor. The earlier a problem is diagnosed, the better the chance of successful treatment will be.

Conclusion

I understand that for some men, the idea of sitting and talking with a doctor about your testicles can be embarrassing, worrying or stressful. I also appreciate that whilst we are in a middle of a global pandemic, people want to avoid visiting the doctor. However, if there is a problem or you are worried about your testicles, go see a doctor and tell them what is worrying you.

The earlier the problem is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be given and the better your chances will be of a full recovery will be.

8 Penis-Friendly Foods to Boost T-Levels, Sperm Count, and More

The best way to boost penis health? Food.

Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo, LDN, RD — Written by Tiffany LaForge — Updated on October 23, 2018

This article is a repost which originally appeared on HealthLine

Edited for content

We often eat with our hearts and stomachs in mind, but how often do we consider how foods affect extremely specific body parts?

First things first though: no matter what we eat, the benefits are holistic — it goes where our bodies need it.

But, let’s say, if you know, that apples and carrots are good for your prostate and penis health, wouldn’t you be inclined to eat these foods more often?

That’s the goal of our below-the-belt food list.

Instead of eating as if your penis needs special attention, fill your day with foods that optimize your whole body, and in turn, help your blood bring the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your penis needs to function. (Erectile dysfunction in younger men is rising and about 1 in 9 men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetime.)

On the plus side, enhancing your diet just might help with other concerns, such as heart disease, hormonal imbalances, fat burn, and more.

From prostate cancer, low T-levels, ED, and possibly infertility, these foods are here to help.

1. Spinach to boost testosterone levels

Spinach worked for Popeye, and it’ll help you, too.

Spinach is a super source of folate, a known blood flow-booster. Folic acid plays a critical role in male sexual function and a deficiency in folic acid has been linked to erectile dysfunction.

Cooked spinach contains 66 percent of your daily folic acid requirement per cup, making it one of the most folate-rich foods around. Additionally, spinach contains a fair amount of magnesium, which also helps improve and stimulate blood flow and has been shown to boost testosterone levels.

Spinach for penile health

  • A good source of folic acid which may help prevent erectile dysfunction.
  • Contains magnesium which has been shown to boost testosterone.
  • Pro-tip: Try our favorite spinach recipes for your next date night.

2. A daily cup of coffee for better sex

Your morning cup of java can be a below-the-belt pick-me-up, too!

Studies have found that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day may prevent erectile dysfunction. This is thanks to coffee’s most beloved ingredient: caffeine.

Caffeine is shown to improve blood flow by relaxing penile arteries and muscles, leading to stronger erections. Cheers!

Caffeine for penile health

  • Caffeine has been shown to prevent erectile dysfunction.
  • Improves blood flow by relaxing penile arteries and muscles.
  • Pro-tip: Not a fan of coffee? You can get your daily caffeine fix from Yerba Mate or matcha instead.

3. Apple peels to prevent prostate cancer

Apples have some great all-around health benefits, but one of their lesser known advantages pertains to penis health.

Apple peels, in particular, contain the active compound ursolic acid. This compound has been shown in cell studies to stop the growth of prostate cancer cells by “starving” the cells. Still, you should always follow a medical professional’s treatment plan when faced with prostate cancer.

Eat more fruits and veggies Grapes, berries, and turmeric also have similar effects. Studies suggest that men who consume more fruits and vegetables in general have better odds at beating prostate cancer.

Apples for penile health

  • Contain an active compound that may starve prostate cancer cells.
  • Men who consume more fruits and vegetables have a better prostate cancer survival rate.
  • Pro-tip: The cancer-fighting compound is contained in the peel so be sure to eat your apples with the skin on. You can also make dried apple chips or apple peel tea.

4. Supercharge your libido with avocados

The Aztecs were on to something when they named the avocado tree the “testicle tree.”

An excellent source of healthy fats, potassium, and vitamins, avocados are great for getting you in the mood.

This toast-topper favorite has vitamin E and zinc, both of which have positive effects on male sex drive and fertility. Zinc has been suggested to increase levels of free testosterone in the body, while vitamin E may improve sperm quality.

Avocados for penile health

  • Contain zinc which increases testosterone levels.
  • Are a good source of vitamin E which improves sperm quality.
  • Pro-tip: Out of ideas beyond guacamole and toast? Find inspiration with our 23 delicious ways to eat an avocado.

5. Chili peppers to spice up the bedroom

Can you handle the heat? Studies have found that men who consume spicy foods have higher-than-average testosterone levels.

While this doesn’t mean spicy food gives you testosterone, the chemical capsaicin has been shown to have bedroom advantages.

Found in hot sauce and chili peppers, capsaicin triggers the release of endorphins — the “feel good” hormone — and can rev up the libido.

Chili peppers for penile health

  • Men who eat spicy foods have higher-than-average T-levels.
  • Capsaicin found in chili peppers triggers the release of endorphins.
  • Pro-tip: There’s more health benefits to spicy foods than a healthy libido. Read about our top five here.

6. Carrots keep your sperm healthy

Looking to improve your sperm count? Science says to eat more carrots.

This fertility superfood may improve both sperm count and motility (the movement and swimming of sperm).

Research suggests this is due to the chemical carotenoids found in carrots, which is also responsible for giving the vegetable its orange color.

Carrots for penile health

  • Research finds that carrots can improve male fertility.
  • Carotenoids found in carrots may improve sperm quality and motility.
  • Pro-tip: Another vegetable high in carotenoids is sweet potatoes, which makes our list of the 14 healthiest vegetables on earth alongside carrots.

7. Oats for a bigger O

Oatmeal might not come to mind when you think of the world’s sexiest foods — but maybe it should!

Oats can be beneficial for reaching orgasm and Avena Sativa (wild oats) is considered an aphrodisiac. The amino acid L-arginine found in oats has also been shown to treat erectile dysfunction.

Like Viagra, L-arginine helps penile blood vessels relax, which is essential to maintaining an erection and reaching orgasm.

Oats for penile health

  • Wild oats are a known aphrodisiac.
  • Amino acids found in oats relax blood vessels and can help with erectile dysfunction.
  • Pro-tip: New to oats? Try our quick and easy 10-minute overnight oats, made three ways.

8. Tomatoes are a penile health trifecta

Want all the benefits in one punch? Start with tomatoes.

Tomatoes include several of the benefits listed above and can be eaten in a variety of ways.

Research shows lycopene-rich foods, like tomatoes, may help prevent prostate cancer.

Tomatoes might also be beneficial to male fertility and sperm quality — as tomatoes seem to significantly improve sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.

Tomatoes for penile health

  • Help prevent prostate cancer.
  • Are beneficial to male fertility and improve sperm concentration, motility, and morphology.
  • Pro-tip: Too busy to make your own marinara? You don’t just have to cook with tomatoes. Try drinking tomato juice for a quick and healthy way to get your daily lycopene.

Looking for more ways to ensure below-the-belt health? Check out our best tips to prevent prostate cancer and non-penile advice on improving your sex life.

After all, your health is more than one body part.


UK man who survived testicular cancer becomes father: Here’s how to do testicle self-exam

UK man who survived testicular cancer becomes father: Here’s how to do testicle self-exam

Unlike other cancers, testicular cancer is much more common in younger men. Doctors recommend regular testicle self-examination to identify testicular cancer at its earliest stage. Watch out for these warning signs and symptoms.

By: Longjam Dineshwori

This article is a repost which originally appeared on THE Health Site

In what could be called a miracle, a UK man who lost his right testicle to cancer recently became a father. Joseph Kelley Hook was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2017, when he was 29. Joseph knew something was very wrong when started feeling agonising pain in his groin and his right testicle had tripled in size. After a long fight, he finally defeated the cancer and was declared all clear in January 2018. But he never thought he would be able to have kids as he had his right testicle removed, plus chemo is known to reduce fertility. [The testicles produce male sex hormones and sperm for reproduction].

But in March this year, Joseph became a father when his partner Rachel gave birth to their son Jacob. He had frozen his sperm in case the couple ever needed it for IVF. But amazingly, he and Rachel were able to conceive naturally and didn’t need IVF.

Doctors in the UK say that testicular cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in young men in the country. Joseph felt lucky that his cancer was caught early because of which could beat the deadly disease. He suggests all men to check their testicles and go to a doctor if they see or feel any changes.

Testicular cancer: Causes and risk factors

Compared with other types of cancer, testicular cancer is rare. But unlike other cancers, it is much more common in younger men, particularly those between ages 15 and 35. Men in their 30s are said to be at highest risk. Usually, testicular cancer affects only one testicle.

Doctors are not clear about what causes testicular cancer in most cases. But they know that it occurs when healthy cells in a testicle become altered. Sometimes some cells may develop abnormalities and grow out of control. These accumulating cancer cells may form a mass in the testicle. Testicular cancers mostly begin in the germ cells — the cells in the testicles that produce immature sperm. But what causes these cells to become abnormal and develop into cancer is unclear.

Factors that may increase your risk of testicular cancer include: An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism), abnormal testicle development, family history, age, and race. Testicular cancer is found to be more common in white men than in black men. Unfortunately, there’s no way to prevent this cancer from occurring.

Know the signs and symptoms of testicular cancer

In almost all diseases, early detection can lead to better treatment results and higher survival rate. Luckily, testicular cancer is highly treatable. The treatment will, however, depend on the type and stage of testicular cancer. Doctors also recommend regular testicle self-examination to identify testicular cancer at its earliest stage. So, watch out for these warning symptoms of testicular cancer to get it treated early.

  • A lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
  • Back pain

If any pain, swelling or lumps in your testicles or groin last longer than two weeks, you need to see a doctor.

Testes: Anatomy and Function, Diagram, Conditions, and Health Tips

Testes: Anatomy and Function, Diagram, Conditions, and Health Tips

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on May 29, 2018 — Written by Tim Jewell

This article is a repost which originally appeared on HealthLine

Edited for content

What are testes?

The testes — also called testicles — are two oval-shaped organs in the male reproductive system. They’re contained in a sac of skin called the scrotum. The scrotum hangs outside the body in the front of the pelvic region near the upper thighs.

Structures within the testes are important for the production and storage of sperm until they’re mature enough for ejaculation. The testes also produce a hormone called testosterone. This hormone is responsible for sex drive, fertility, and the development of muscle and bone mass.

Anatomy and function of testes

The main function of the testes is producing and storing sperm. They’re also crucial for creating testosterone and other male hormones called androgens.

Testes get their ovular shape from tissues known as lobules. Lobules are made up of coiled tubes surrounded by dense connective tissues.

Seminiferous tubules

Seminiferous tubules are coiled tubes that make up most of each testis. The cells and tissues in the tubules are responsible for spermatogenesis, which is the process of creating sperm.

These tubules are lined with a layer of tissue called the epithelium. This layer is made up of Sertoli cells that aid in the production of hormones that generate sperm. Among the Sertoli cells are spermatogenic cells that divide and become spermatozoa, or sperm cells.

The tissues next to the tubules are called Leydig cells. These cells produce male hormones, such as testosterone and other androgens.

Rete testis

After sperm is created in the seminiferous tubules, sperm cells travel toward the epididymis through the rete testis. The rete testis helps to mix sperm cells around in the fluid secreted by Sertoli cells. The body reabsorbs this fluid as sperm cells travel from the seminiferous tubules to the epididymis.

Before sperm can get to the epididymis, they can’t move. Millions of tiny projections in the rete testis, known as microvilli, help move sperm along to the efferent tubules.

Efferent ducts

The efferent ducts are a series of tubes that join the rete testis to the epididymis. The epididymis stores sperm cells until they’re mature and ready for ejaculation.

These ducts are lined with hair-like projections called cilia. Along with a layer of smooth muscle, cilia help move the sperm into the epididymis.

The efferent ducts also absorb most of the fluid that helps to move sperm cells. This results in a higher concentration of sperm in ejaculate fluid.

Tunica: Vasculosa, albuginea, and vaginalis

The testes are surrounded by several layers of tissue. They are the:

  • tunica vasculosa
  • tunica albuginea
  • tunica vaginalis

Tunica vasculosa is the first thin layer of blood vessels. This layer shields the tubular interior of each testicle from further layers of tissue around the outer testicle.

The next layer is called the tunica albuginea. It’s a thick, protective layer made of densely packed fibers that further protect the testes.

The outermost layers of tissue are called the tunica vaginalis. The tunica vaginalis consists of three layers:

  • Visceral layer. This layer surrounds the tunica albuginea that shields the seminiferous tubules.
  • Cavum vaginale. This layer is an empty space between the visceral layer and the outermost layer of the tunica vaginalis.
  • Parietal layer. This layer is the outermost protective layer that surrounds almost the entire testicular structure.

What conditions affect the testes?

Many conditions can affect the testes. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones.

Hydrocele

A hydrocele happens when excess fluid builds up in the cavities around one of your testicles. This is sometimes present at birth, but it can also result from an injury or inflammation.

Hydrocele symptoms include:

  • testicular swelling that gets more noticeable as the day goes on
  • a dull ache in your scrotum
  • feeling heaviness in your scrotum

Hydroceles usually don’t require treatment unless they’re very large or painful. Most go away on their own, but more severe cases might require surgical removal.

Testicular torsion

Testicular torsion means that your testicle has rotated in the scrotum. This can wind up the spermatic cord, cutting off blood supply, nerve function, and sperm transport to your scrotum.

Symptoms of testicular torsion include:

  • severe scrotum pain
  • swelling of the testicle
  • lower abdominal pain
  • feeling nauseous
  • vomiting
  • feeling like the testicle is out of place
  • urinating more than usual

Several things can cause testicular torsion, including:

  • injury to the scrotum
  • exercising too long or hard
  • being exposed to cold temperatures
  • free movement of the testicle in the scrotum caused by a genetic condition

Your doctor can treat testicular torsion by moving the testicle by hand. Some cases might require surgery to untwist the spermatic cord.

Orchitis

Orchitis refers to a swollen or inflamed testicle. Like epididymitis, orchitis often results from an infection caused by an STI.

Orchitis symptoms include:

  • testicular pain and tenderness
  • a swollen testicle
  • fever
  • feeling nauseous
  • vomiting

Both bacterial and viral infections can cause orchitis. A combination of antibiotics or antiviral medication, along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or cold packs can help reduce discomfort and pain. Orchitis usually disappears in 7-10 days.

Hypogonadism

Hypogonadism happens when your body doesn’t make enough testosterone. It can result from a testicular issue or because your brain doesn’t properly stimulate hormone production.

You can be born with this condition. It can also happen due to an injury, infection, or other condition that affects testosterone production.

Symptoms of hypogonadism vary depending on age:

  • In infants. The genitals might not be clearly male, or both sets of genitals might be present.
  • In teenagers. Symptoms may include:
    • a lack of muscle development
    • little body hair growth
    • no voice deepening
    • unusual arm and leg growth relative to the rest of the body
  • In adults. Symptoms may include:
    • a lack of fertility
    • loss of body hair
    • growth of breast tissue
    • loss of bone density
    • an inability to get an erection

Hypogonadism is usually treated with hormone replacement therapy. It’s aimed at either the brain or testes, depending on the source of low testosterone production.

Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer happens when cancerous cells multiply within the tissue of your testicles. It commonly starts in the tubular testicle structures that help produce sperm.

The cause of testicular cancer isn’t always clear.

Symptoms of testicular cancer can include:

  • a lump in your testicle
  • feeling heaviness in your scrotum
  • fluids in your scrotum
  • testicular pain
  • abdominal or back pain
  • swollen or tender breast tissue

Sometimes, your doctor can surgically remove the affected tissue. In other cases, you may need to have an entire testicle removed. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy can also help destroy cancer cells.

What are common symptoms of a testicular condition?

See your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms in one or both of your testes:

  • long-term pain that’s either dull or sharp
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • a sensation of heaviness

Other symptoms of a problem with the testes include:

  • feeling sick
  • throwing up
  • abnormal abdominal or back pain
  • having to pee frequently
  • abnormal growth of breast tissue

Tips for healthy testes

Try the following to keep your scrotum in good health:

Do a monthly testicular self-exam

Roll each testicle around in your scrotum using your fingers. Check for lumps and swollen or tender areas.

Bathe regularly

Take a shower or bath every day to keep your entire genital area clean. This reduces your risk of infections that can cause other complications. Keep your penis and scrotal area dry after bathing. Moisture trapped in the area can quickly become a breeding ground for bacteria.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing

Try to avoid wearing tight underwear and pants. Allow your scrotum to hang naturally from your body to help keep the scrotal temperature low and prevent injury.

Wear protection when you have sex

Wear a condom when doing any kind of sexual activity involving your penis. This helps to prevent sexually transmitted diseases that affect your scrotum and testicles.

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