Sunday, April 08, 2007

Estrus, Rabbits, and You: The Endocrinology of Easter

People have often told me that I talk "smart." It's because of my parents. I was born shortly after my mother received her Master's degree, and my father was doing post-doctoral work at UCONN. Mom was going to be a high-school science teacher, and Dad's dissertation had something to do with reproductive endocrinology.

Ever since I was an infant, they've been speaking to me in the same language they used with their peers, be they doctoral candidates, chemists, or professors. At no time was I shown a "choo-choo." I was shown a steam engine, accompanied by an explanation of what made it different from a coal engine or a diesel engine.

I loved them for this. It may sound stuffy, but we had a lot of laughs growing up. As the years progressed, the little science lessons of life grew increasingly detailed and complex. By the time I was in college, Dad and I were discussing the most recent research into the pharmacology of various medicines and their appropriateness in this disease syndrome or that. Invariably we would begin to hypothesize, our imaginations spiraling off into the absurd. I spent a lot of weekends visiting home during college, and Dad was usually the one to shuttle me to and fro. During the 90-minute drives, we'd be laughing so hard our faces would be red and puffy by the time we pulled up to the house.

I emailed my parents a photo of the Easter Eggs I made last night. My father responded this morning with the following email:

You know, of course, that the word, "Easter," comes from the same root as the words, "Estrus," and "Estrous Cycle." The former refers to sexual receptitivty in the female and the latter to the reproductive cycle in some mammals that is similar to the menstral cycle. For example rats and pigs have estrous cycles.

Rabbits, interestingly, do not have either estrous cycles or menstrual cycles. They are induced ovulators. That is, stimulation of the uterine cervix triggers what is known as a neuroendocrine reflex arc. Stimulation of the cervix sents an afferent message to the rabbits's hypothalamus. In turn it releases gonatropic releasing factor which drips on the pituitary gland which releases luteinizing hormone which gets to the ovary and causes ovulation. The viability of the sperm is four days, so there is sufficient time for some of those millions or sperm to find their home.

Humans, of coure, are sponataneous (cyclic) ovulators. However, while I was a graduate student, it was found that primates probably ovulated both ways, induced as well as cyclic. As a matter of fact, we were going to get young married couples to have sex in the lab and measure to see if we could find luteining hormone afterward in increased amonts. We want to pay them, say $100.00 (a lot of money at the time) a piece. Someone accused us of a pun.

Anyway, it is now long established that humans can be induced to ovulate from coitus. This is the reason Vatican Roulette is not always effective as a birth control method.

By the way, the rabbit predates the resurrection as a Spring celebration by millenia.



I called him to thank him for the outstanding analysis, and expressed enthusiasm for the proposed study of increased lutenizing hormones in sexually active humans. Dad mentioned that, sadly, none of his colleagues had done their doctoral dissertation on this study.

I agreed that this was tragic. "They could have gotten class credit for getting laid!"

Happy Spring, everyone. Be sure to celebrate in an appropriate fashion!


Marc said...

As you probably know, the goddess Eastre was worshipped by the pagans as a goddess of fertility. And rabbits and eggs were symbols of fertility associated with Eastre. The pagans were around long before Christ.

Enter the Catholic church who, in its zeal to convert people to the faith, decided that perhaps there were better ways than torture (the Crusades, the Inquisition) to convince non-Christians to convert. They incorporated the pagans' Eastre celebration of Spring into the celebration of Christ's resurrection because the timing was coincidental. Perhaps they were trying to be progressive and distance themselves from the Jews...from whom their celebration of communion is directly derived (the Last Supper was a Passover seder...matzo and wine). Whatever the case, that's how the pagan Eastre made it into church services.

Wait a minute...did we have this discussion last year here?!

Jess said...

I was just going to comment on how you managed to bring things around to screwing--and that's one of the many reasons we love you.

And then I see my other half's dissertation. Well, don't I feel crude? ;)

Dantallion said...

LOL - I had tears streaming down my face reading that. Both you and your Dad are priceless.

Frank said...

My dad's email said, "Way to rise, Jesus!"

Laura Slowinski said...

Love it when you talk of your father. I have really fond memories of him being like the most intelligent human I had ever met. Remember when we were doing our 7th grade science project, and we kept breaking the MERCURY thermometers all over your kitchen, we were tired and frustrated, trying to figure out how we were going to prove our data, when here walks in your dad with that huge thermometer! Just exactly what we were needing. How he knew we needed that I will never know, but he was my hero for that minute!

I wonder how much mercury we touched that day? remember trying to soak it up with paper towels?