Knowing that our dear Scienceline readers may be wondering what’s new in the world of male reproductive fluids, we bring you this:

Semen ain’t just sperm. In two recent papers, scientists show that semen can reveal ways to tackle infectious diseases, such as malaria and HIV (and maybe depression, too).

1) The mosquito “sex receptor”

A protein in male mosquito semen (nicknamed the “sex peptide”) signals to his lady mosquito that she should lay eggs and start biting innocent bystanders. (Females in egg-laying mode are the only mosquitoes that feed on hearty blood.) Working in fruit flies, researchers have now found the female “sex receptor” that recognizes this protein signal. Blocking the sex receptor might someday decrease mosquito-borne malaria. (Also check out Natalie Peretsman’s new story on the latest tools for fighting malaria.)

2) “Seminal” findings about HIV

Human semen is filled with nutrients and other goodies that help sperm on their journey through the acidic vagina to the great egg in the far-off land of fallopian tubes. But it looks like semen is also aiding HIV.

A protein in human semen can help HIV stick to—and infect—target cells, according to a recent paper. In lab experiments, the protein (prostatic acidic phosphatase) could make HIV more than 100,000 times more infectious. This points to a possible way to decrease sexual transmission of the virus from HIV-positive men.

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Related on Scienceline:
Do mosquitoes transmit HIV?

A new drug to blocks HIV from entering cells.

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About the Author

Susannah Locke holds a B.S. from Haverford College, where she studied molecular biology and psychology and ran the college’s literary magazine. For two years following graduation she played with neurons as a research technician at the University of Pennsylvania and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After using almost every type of test tube on the market for every conceivable purpose, she removed her gloves to become a journalist and improve the public’s understanding of science.

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