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Analysis of DNA fragmentation of sperm

To assess the fertility potential of the male various diagnostic measures can be performed in the fertility laboratory.The basic diagnostic tool is the semen analysis (spermiogram). Here, the semen is evaluated under the microscope to determine factors such as the number of sperm (concentration), swimming speed of the sperm (motility), the amount of normal shaped sperm (morphology). This measure gives a good overview of obvious problems with sperm count, motility or sperm health. This is a routine procedure.

Examination of sperm DNA

As a further diagnostic measure, an additional analysis of the genetic material in the sperm head (Acrosome) can be carried out. Here, the genetic material (DNA) is examined for intactness. Genetic integrity of the sperm is  one of the key factors in successful fertilization and normal embryo development.Human DNA is a double-stranded structure that shows “broken sections” when damaged. This is called fragmentation. If the DNA exhibits a high amount of fragmentation this may lead to implantation failure or miscarriages despite a good basic semen analysis.

Although DNA fragmentation is generally higher in men with abnormal sperm parameters, especially in those with a high amount of sperm head and neck defects, high fragmentation is also sometimes found in men with normal semen analysis.

The result of this investigation provides a good base for further consultation with the aim to increase pregnancy chances either by natural means or with the help of fertility therapy.

High level of DNA fragmentation may explain implantation failure, impaired fertilization rates or lead to impaired embryo development. It has been scientifically proven that high sperm DNA fragmentation can result in impaired blastocyst development (day 5 embryos).

The higher the DNA fragmentation, the more likely it is to cause fertilization failure in IVF, implantation failure, and miscarriage.  

Causes of Sperm DNA damage

Oxidative stress is the main cause of genetic damage. The following factors may be associated with genetic damage:

  • environmental or occupational toxins
  • genital tract infection and an increased white blood    cells count in the ejaculate
  • smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs
  • certain medications
  • chemotherapy
  • stress
  • eating habits
  • natural aging effects

Treatment options

Based on the result obtained from the analysis is possible to advise the man in particular. Lifestyle changes, stress reduction, dietary changes and certain dietary supplements can help to reduce DNA fragmentation.  In case of genital tract infection, antibiotic therapy may be helpful. Our therapy recommendations for you are dependent on your personal life circumstances. 

If there is only mildly increased DNA fragmentation, the couple may be able to avoid fertility treatment through lifestyle changes without any further need for expensive therapies. The DNA fragmentation analysis allows a better planning for procedures in the IVF clinic, which leads to an improvement of the pregnancy chances. 

If the analysis shows no abnormalities, it is wise to perform further investigations on woman. Altogether this analysis can give deeper insights into the reason for the fertility problem and answer questions that a basic semen analysis may leave unanswered.

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