Monday, June 30th, 2014
Many men who are facing “male factor infertility” because their sperm’s size and shape is not of a high enough quality to fertilize a woman’s egg and help her become pregnant turn to lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking or drinking alcohol. But a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction has found that those lifestyle adjustments–while a good idea for men who want to be healthier and lower their risk of other health conditions–aren’t likely to help solve their sperm quality issues.
Other factors, including smoking marijuana, were found to lower sperm quality, as was collecting samples during the hot summer months. And the size and shape of sperm–known as “morphology”–was better among men who had abstained from sexual activity for a few days before collection. Reuters has more:
The researchers found that men were about twice as likely to have abnormal sperm if the sample was collected during the summer. They were also more likely to have abnormal sperm if they were young and smoked marijuana.
Although most other medical and lifestyle factors, such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, didn’t seem to be linked to sperm morphology, Smith said he still would advise his patients to be as healthy as possible.
“Marijuana is certainly a potential worrisome risk factor for hurting sperm quality,” he said. “I’d tell my patients to stop smoking marijuana. I wouldn’t say to my patient to go out and do whatever you want because it won’t make a difference. To me, that would be overstating those results.”
The researchers also caution that the men included in the study may not be representative of all couples with fertility problems.
Smith said a better study would be to focus on whether the couples went on to conceive a child.
Image: Man eating a salad, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Monday, June 9th, 2014
Young men who smoke marijuana may putting the morphology–size and shape–of their sperm at risk, according to new research on male fertility. More from CNN.com:
The study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at how a man’s lifestyle affects his sperm morphology: the size and shape of sperm. Researchers collected data from 1,970 men who provided semen as part of a fertility assessment.
All of the lifestyle information was self-reported, and researchers made no attempt to confirm accuracy. Of those men, 318 produced abnormal sperm, where less than 4% of it was the correct size and shape (as defined by the World Health Organization). The remaining men’s sperm had a higher percentage at a ”normal” size and shape.
“Cannabis smoking was more common in those men who had sperm morphology less than 4%,” Pacey said. “Cannabis affects one of the processes involved in determining size and shape. And we also know that the way cannabis is metabolized is different in fertile and infertile men.”
The study found that men who had less than 4% normal sperm were typically under 30 years old, had used marijuana within three months of giving their sample and were twice as likely to have provided their sample during the summer.
Any of those factors could have influenced sperm morphology, but Pacey said “the only thing we found that was a risk that a man can do something about was cannabis.”
Image: Smoke, via Shutterstock
Add a Comment
Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
A group of common chemicals called endocrine disruptors are being connected to fertility problems in men, as CNN reports:
Researchers found endocrine disruptors can interfere with human sperm’s ability to move, navigate and/or penetrate an egg. Their study results were published Monday in EMBO reports.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system – the system in your body that regulates hormones. These hormones control everything from your metabolism to your sleep cycle to your reproductive system, so messing with them can cause serious issues.
Scientists have a long list of potential endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxin, mercury and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). They can be natural or man-made and are virtually “omnipresent,” the study authors write, in our food and in common household and personal care products.
This isn’t the first time scientists have linked these chemicals with fertility issues in humans. For example, in 2010, a study of Chinese factory workers found exposure to BPA can reduce sperm counts. More recent studies have shown BPA and chemicals called phthalates can hinder a couple’s ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to full term.
Scientists in Germany and Denmark tested 96 endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm – both individually and in various combinations. Around one-third of the chemicals had a negative effect.
The researchers found these endocrine disruptors increased the amount of calcium found in sperm cells – although BPA was found to have no effect. Calcium ions control many of the essential functions of sperm, study author Dr. Timo Strunker explains, including the flagellum – the tail that propels sperm forward. So changing the calcium level in a sperm cell can impact its motility, or swimming ability.
Image: Sperm, via Shutterstock
Take our quiz to find out if you could be ovulating.
Add a Comment
BPA, endocrine disruptors, fertility, infertility, male factor infertility, sperm, sperm quality, toxic chemicals | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Pregnancy, Safety
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014
A new technique that takes 3D film of moving sperm could help doctors select those sperm that have the best chance of fertilizing an egg and leading to a successful pregnancy in cases where couples are undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments. More from The Optical Society, the professional scientific organization that published the research in its journal:
Add a Comment
Now doctors may soon have a new technique to help them sort the good sperm cells from the less viable ones: a tracking system, developed by a team of researchers from four European institutions, that takes 3-D movies of living sperm. In addition to showing the sperm’s movement and behavior in real time, the novel method simultaneously provides detailed 3-D imaging of the sperm’s form and structure to detect potential infertility-causing anomalies, such as the “bent tail” that prevents the cells from swimming straight.
The researchers say this is the first technique for collecting data on sperm cell motility—a key predictor of IVF success—in three dimensions and over time. They describe their method in a paper published today in The Optical Society’s (OSA) open-access journal Biomedical Optics Express.
Currently, sperm concentration and mobility in semen are assessed either by subjective visual evaluation or a process known as computer-assisted sperm analysis (CASA). While the latter provides more detail and fewer errors than the former, CASA still only allows tracking and imaging in two dimensions. In their new technique, the team of researchers from Italy and Belgium combined microscopy and holography—the creation of 3-D images—to visualize live sperm in not only two dimensions (the x and y positions) but according to their depth (z position) as well.
And, “by acquiring a video of the moving sperm in 3-D, we add a fourth dimension – time,” said lead author Giuseppe Di Caprio of the Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems of the National Research Council (NRC) in Naples, Italy, and Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
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
Add a Comment