The rete testis is located in the testicle, the male sex gland and is responsible for producing sperm and the hormone testosterone. It is a complex, maze-like network that spermatozoa travel through to reach the epididymis, which are ducts where sperm are stored. The structure of the rete testis is an anastamosing network, which is one that consists of tubules that connect, branch out, and reconnect. Men can suffer from obstructions of the rete testis, and this condition is sometimes known as rete tubular ecstasia.
Spermatozoa are generated by germ cells in the seminiferous tubules. These make up nearly 90% of the testicle. Once the spermatozoa have been formed, they move into the mediastinum testis, a network of tissue that runs from the top and into the lower half of the testicle. It contains the rete testis and the upper portion of the efferent ductules. These connect the rete testis to the epididymis.
When the spermatozoa reach the epididymis, they are stored there until they mature. The whole process from cell creation to maturation takes about seven weeks. If the sperm are ready to be ejaculated, then they move up into the vas deferens, where they mix with fluid from the seminal glands and the prostate. These structures produce seminal fluid, which is a sugar-rich fluid that provides energy for the sperm.
The vas deferens, also known as the ductus deferens, connects with the urethra. Each tube is about 11.8 inches (30 cm) long. Once ejaculation has been triggered, the walls start to contract and the sperm and fluids are propelled forward, into the urethra and out of the penis.
As the spermatozoa move through the rete testis they are carried through the duct by fluid. This is usually reabsorbed as the sperm progress through the tubules and, because of this, the sperm cells become concentrated. This concentration increases the man’s fertility because he is able to ejaculate a larger number of sperm at one time. If the rete testis is not functioning properly and excess fluid is not reabsorbed, each ejaculation will not be as potent and it can greatly decrease the chances of an egg being fertilized. A blockage in the network of canals and ducts can also affect the number of sperm that are expelled.
Rete tubular ecstasia is a condition in which cysts develop in the rete testis. A cyst is a closed structure that is usually filled with fluid, gas, or a semisolid substance, and they can appear anywhere on the body. Cysts tend to occur in patients who are 60 or more years of age, and are usually benign. In some cases, a physical examination of the area may reveal a small cystic mass or lump within the testicle. Some cysts may go away on their own, but others can require surgical removal.