Sperm trajectories form chiral ribbons

Ting Wei Su, Inkyum Choi, Jiawen Feng, Kalvin Huang, Euan McLeod, Aydogan Ozcan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


We report the discovery of an entirely new three-dimensional (3D) swimming pattern observed in human and horse sperms. This motion is in the form of 'chiral ribbons', where the planar swing of the sperm head occurs on an osculating plane creating in some cases a helical ribbon and in some others a twisted ribbon. The latter, i.e., the twisted ribbon trajectory, also defines a minimal surface, exhibiting zero mean curvature for all the points on its surface. These chiral ribbon swimming patterns cannot be represented or understood by already known patterns of sperms or other micro-swimmers. The discovery of these unique patterns is enabled by holographic on-chip imaging of >33,700 sperm trajectories at >90-140frames/sec, which revealed that only ∼1.7% of human sperms exhibit chiral ribbons, whereas it increases to ∼27.3% for horse sperms. These results might shed more light onto the statistics and biophysics of various micro-swimmers' 3D motion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1664
JournalScientific reports
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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