Friday, November 1st, 2013
A team of researchers from a number of top Boston medical institutions are working together on new research that could help the best sperm from a man’s sample travel better through fluid, increasing its chances of successfully finding and fertilizing a woman’s egg. The research, if successful, could increase the chances of success for couples who undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF). More from Boston.com:
Physicist Erkan Tuzel works in a field that seems just about as far removed as possible from delicate questions about human reproduction; his lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute develops algorithms to describe the behavior of complex fluids. But after he heard a talk by Harvard Medical School bioengineer Utkan Demirci, who carves microscopically small channels and then allows fluids to flow through them, the two began to talk about collaborating. Their common ground? Designing technology that could cull the healthiest, fastest-moving sperm from the slowpokes.
Doctors trying to help couples reproduce through in vitro fertilization would like to have an easy way to identify and isolate the sperm most likely to result in a baby. Figuring out how to reliably do that, however, may have as much to do with physics as it does with biology.
In real-world experiments, sperm can swim through tiny channels created by Demirci at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Computer modeling by Tuzel could be used to understand how to design those channels so that they select the right sperm.
“Sperm cells interact with each other when in confined geometries,” Tuzel said. “Just like birds when they fly in formation like a flock, similarly through the fluid, the sperm cells interact with each other and they synchronize their tails—they start beating in phase. … How can we use this information to learn from it and utilize it?”
Tuzel was recently awarded a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to build computational tools that could help design systems that sort sperm in real life.
Image: Sperm collection container, via Shutterstock
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Friday, October 18th, 2013
A diet heavy in bacon and other processed meats may raise a man’s risk of having poor sperm and semen quality, whereas a diet rich in fish could boost male fertility, according to a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility. More from CNN:
Myriam Afeiche, research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health, and her colleagues looked at how types of meat could be associated with semen quality. They took samples from 156 men at the Massachusetts General Hospital Fertility Center in Boston and had the men answer a questionnaire about their eating habits.
What does semen have to look like to be considered high-quality? The researchers considered four main parameters:
The concentration of sperm is one part of it. So is motility, or how fast the sperm move. The shape of the sperm also matters, as does the total sperm count – that’s the concentration multiplied by volume.
The researchers did not look at individual kinds of processed meat, so this study won’t tell you if bacon could be more sperm-stunting than hamburgers, or vice versa. But higher intake of processed meat appeared to be related to a lower percent of “morphologically normal” – or well-shaped – sperm.
Regarding fish, it seemed that men who ate more dark meat fish – such as salmon, bluefish and tuna – had higher total sperm count; more white meat fish – such as cod and halibut – was associated with normally-shaped sperm.
The researchers only looked at associations, not causes. It is unclear whether processed meat actually causes changes in sperm, or if it does, how that would happen. It’s possible men who eat more processed meat have an unhealthier diet overall, which could affect their semen. Same goes for fish intake and sperm; researchers don’t know what about fish may benefit the littler swimmers.
“There might be something else going on, but we’re not sure what it is,” Afeiche said.
Trying to get pregnant? Find out if you are maximizing your fertility, or predict your due date.
Image: Bacon, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Male factor infertility may be linked by a slightly elevated risk of certain types of cancer, including testicular cancer, according to a new study published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility. More from The New York Times:
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About one in six infertile men have azoospermia, or no viable sperm in their ejaculate, and these men may be at the highest cancer risk, a new study shows.
For the study, published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility, researchers evaluated 2,238 men, average age 36, at a fertility clinic in Texas; 451 had azoospermia. They found 29 cases of cancer during an average follow-up of almost seven years.
Over all, those in the infertile group were 1.7 times as likely as the general population in Texas to develop some form of cancer. But the risk more than tripled for those with azoospermia.
While the increase in relative risk is substantial, the authors write, the absolute risk of cancer in this population remains low.
“The main message here is to continue follow-up after a fertility workup,” said the lead author, Dr. Michael L. Eisenberg, an assistant professor of urology at Stanford.
Wednesday, February 6th, 2013
Men who watch more than 20 hours of television each week have a 44 percent lower sperm count than men who watch less TV, a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health has found. More from NBC News:
Twenty-plus hours per week? Who has so much free time they can devote such a fat chunk of their lives to clicker-clutching couch vegging? Apparently, many of us, said Jorge Chavarro, senior author of the study and assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard.
“It’s not difficult to imagine. That’s about three hours a day,” Chavarro said. “Let’s say somebody comes home from work at 7 and turns on the TV; they only need to watch TV until the evening news and they’ve watched three hours.”
Starting in the 1990s, studies have suggested a reduction in sperm counts among men in various cities, including in Europe and the United States. It’s become more clear in the past six years.
“Most people have speculated these are due to higher use of environmental chemicals,” Chavarro said.
“One of the things that has been overlooked during same six-year period: there also have been vast changes in how people live their lives, including how people eat, watch television, move around – whether they are active or not. Relatively little attention has been paid to these factors (when it comes to sperm counts). We wanted to look at that.”
Image: Man watching TV, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Saturated fats, which are found in cheeses and meats, are being blamed for falling sperm counts among Danish men in a new study. More from Reuters:
Researchers, whose report appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that young Danish men who ate the most saturated fats had a 38 percent lower concentration of sperm, and 41 percent lower sperm counts in their semen, than those who ate the least fat.
“We cannot say that it has a causal effect, but I think other studies have shown that saturated fat intake has shown a connection to other problems and now also for sperm count,” said Tina Jensen, the study’s lead author from Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen, the Danish capital.
The research is not the first to connect diet and other lifestyle factors to sperm production and quality. In 2011, Brazilian researchers found that men who ate more fruit and grains suchs wheat, oats or barley had faster and more agile sperm, as well as more sperm overall.
But that study and most others looked at these associations using data on men seeking fertility treatments, which may not be representative of all men.
Image: Steak, via Shutterstock
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