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
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Thursday, June 12th, 2014
Men who routinely carry smartphones in their pants pockets may end up with a lowered sperm count and lessened sperm quality, according to a new British study that examines the effects of the phones’ low levels of electromagnetic radiation. More from Time.com:
Even while the debate over whether cell phones cause cancer rages on, researchers are starting to explore other potentially harmful effects that the ubiquitous devices may have on our health. Because they emit low-level electromagnetic radiation (EMR), it’s possible that they can disturb normal cell functions and even sleep.
And with male infertility on the rise, Fiona Mathews at the University of Exeter, in England, and her colleagues decided to investigate what role cell phones might play in that trend. In their new research, they analyzed 10 previous studies, seven of which involved the study of sperm motility, concentration and viability in the lab, and three that included male patients at fertility clinics. Overall, among the 1,492 samples, exposure-to-cell-phone EMR lowered sperm motility by 8%, and viability by 9%.
Image: Man with phone in pocket, via Shutterstock
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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
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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
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BPA, endocrine disruptors, fertility, infertility, male factor infertility, sperm, sperm quality, toxic chemicals | Categories:
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Thursday, April 17th, 2014
The protein mechanism that allows a sperm and egg to connect to each other and fertilize to become an embryo has been identified by British scientists. More from Reuters:
Fertilization takes place when an egg cell and a sperm cell recognize one another and fuse to form an embryo. But how they recognize each other in order to hook up had remained a mystery.
Researchers said on Wednesday they have identified a protein on the egg cell’s surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of a sperm cell, allowing the two cells to join.
This protein, dubbed Juno in honor of the ancient Roman goddess of fertility and marriage, and its counterpart in sperm, named Izumo after a Japanese marriage shrine, are essential for reproduction in mammals including people, they said.
This new understanding of the role of these two proteins could help improve the treatment of infertility and guide the development of new contraceptives, the researchers said.
“By identifying this interaction between Juno and Izumo, we now know the identity of the receptor proteins found on the surface of our father’s sperm and our mother’s egg that must interact at the moment at which we were conceived,” said Gavin Wright of the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, one of the researchers in the study published in the journal Nature.
The researchers are now screening infertile women to try to determine whether problems with the Juno receptor are to blame.
“It is remarkable that about 20 percent of infertility cases have an unexplained cause,” said Enrica Bianchi of the Sanger Institute, another of the researchers.
“We are now asking whether Juno is involved in these cases of unexplained infertility,” Bianchi added.
Wright said that if defects in the Juno receptor are in fact implicated in human infertility, a simple, non-invasive genetic screening test could be developed to identify affected women.
“This then would allow us to guide the fertility treatment,” Wright said, letting affected women proceed directly to a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection involving direct injection of sperm into an egg obtained from in vitro fertilization.
Image: Sperm and egg, via Shutterstock
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