New studies suggest that sperm with certain levels of DNA fragmentation serve as a strong predictor of reduced male fertility.
Fertility specialist Dr Andrew Davidson, of City Fertility Centre Gold Coast, said sperm that appeared to be normal using traditional semen analysis methods may actually have extensive DNA fragmentation.
“The usual evaluation of male infertility has typically been a semen analysis measuring count, motility and morphology of the sperm,” Dr Davidson said.
“However, DNA analysis is now proving to be a valuable diagnostic tool for male infertility as well.”
The development of a healthy embryo is initiated when the chromosomes that consist of strands of DNA from the egg come together with those from the sperm. However, sometimes these strands can become damaged.
The causes of sperm DNA damage include drugs, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, smoking, environmental toxins, genital tract inflammation, testicular hyperthermia, varicoceles, hormone factors, infrequent ejaculation and the male’s age.
Dr Davidson said depending on the cause of the sperm DNA damage, some measures could help to improve the DNA quality. These included leading a healthier lifestyle, quitting smoking, avoiding exposure to toxins (such as fertilisers and fumes) and taking a daily supplement of antioxidants and zinc.
According to a recent fertility and sterility study by Sakkas et al., up to 8 per cent of infertile men have been shown to have high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation.
Dr Davidson said it appeared that if the sperm DNA fragmentation level was greater than 30 per cent, the couple was likely to have significantly reduced fertility potential, including a marked decrease in term pregnancies and a doubling of miscarriages.
“The good news is that I have seen male patients who have significantly improved their sperm DNA quality by following some of the recommended treatments and gone on to have successful pregnancies with their partners,” he said.
It was obvious that having this information about the DNA quality of the sperm could be extremely helpful to couples and their fertility specialists, Dr Davidson said.
City Fertility Centre can carry out the one-hour sperm DNA fragmentation tests in its world-class laboratories.