The Cowper’s glands
- Category: The male reproductive system
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The Cowper’s glands (or bulbourethral glands) are a pair of exocrine glands in the male reproductive system. Roughly the size of peas, they are located inferior to the prostate gland and lateral to the urethra in the urogenital diaphragm. The Cowper’s glands are only found in the male body and play an important role in the protection of sperm during ejaculation.
Each Cowper’s gland is made of several connected glandular lobules. Many tiny hollow tubules spread through each lobule and are surrounded by columnar glandular epithelium. A thin fibrous membrane surrounds the lobules to hold the gland together and give a firm structure to the gland. The many lobules meet at an inch-long (2.5 cm) duct that carries the secretions of the Cowper’s gland to the urethra at the base of the penis.
The secretions produced by the Cowper’s glands help to protect sperm as it passes through the urethra during ejaculation. In response to sexual stimulation prior to ejaculation, the Cowper’s glands begin producing an alkaline mucous secretion known as pre-ejaculate. Pre-ejaculate neutralizes acidic urine that may still be present in the urethra while also lubricating the urethra and external urethral orifice to protect sperm from mechanical damage during ejaculation.