LIfestyle choices may damage sperm and lead to male infertility


Lifestyle factors such as smoking and high fat diets could be the reason an important molecular chaperone protein is absent in infertile men. A new study shows that sperm placed in an environment of oxidative stress may be unable to complete fertilization.

Sperm needs a chaperone to find the egg

“The aim of this study was to investigate how sperm recognize the eggs and initiate fertilization. What we found was a molecular chaperone protein that is capable of regulating the presentation of egg receptors on the sperm surface and thus directing sperm-egg interaction,” explained Professor Brett Nixon, University of Newcastle’s School of Environmental and life Sciences. “In a subset of infertile men, we found that this molecular chaperone was under-represented or completely absent, which appears to be impacting sperm fertilizing potential during the reproductive process. We are currently investigating whether the reason this protein is missing is the result of damage caused from excessive oxidative stress.”

Lifestyle factors cause cellular stress

Oxidative stress occurs in the testes and damages sperm making it more difficult for them to find and merge with an egg. “Oxidative stress occurs when the body has more Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), or free radicals, than it can deal with. This build-up of ROS is generally thought to be the result of a variety of environmental and lifestyle factors, including advanced age and too much smoking,” explained Professor Nixon. “Sperm are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress which can cause damage to the membrane of the cell and to its DNA.”

More studies needed on male infertility

“The reasons behind male infertility are relatively unexplored so it is incredibly important that we continue our studies in this area to increase our knowledge and understanding of this widespread issue,” noted Professor Nixon. “By continuing research on sperm cells, not only will we gain a better understanding of male infertility, but it will also be key to helping develop a male centered contraceptive in the future.”

Source: The Endocrine Society of Australia, MedicalNewsToday


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