MALE FERTILITY: Why have a Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test?
DNA is also known as Deoxyribonucleic acid - a polymer composed of two polynucleotide chains that coil around each other to form a double helix which carries the genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction in all living things.
Sperm carries this genetic material from the male, to pair with the DNA material via the egg of the female, to create a unique genetic code for their children. Recognised as the ‘code of life’, our DNA includes all of the instructions for the successful development of an embryo. Damaged DNA reduces the chances of conception and delivering a healthy baby.
In more recent years, Sperm DNA fragmentation testing has become a key consideration in fertility diagnosis, as damaged or impaired sperm DNA can interfere with the sperms ability to effectively fertilise an egg and develop into a healthy, viable embryo.
If DNA fragmentation levels are high, this is associated with infertility, failure of IVF cycles and even early miscarriage. Therefore, analysing the genetic integrity of sperm at the diagnostic phase, might well be one of the most important factors in male fertility today.
Despite its introduction as a research concept relating to male subfertility in 1980s, Sperm DNA fragmentation is still less familiar to couples undertaking fertility treatment than other existing sperm quality parameters; such as sperm count, sperm motility and sperm morphology. Yet, research has demonstrated that men who are diagnosed with high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation are also more likely to have other abnormal semen parameters. With this in mind, one could argue that a DNA Sperm Fragmentation test should be the first choice when investigating male subfertility.
Diagnosing sperm DNA damage as early as possible in your journey will enable you and your consultant to make informed decisions about the type of treatment and/or lifestyle changes required to help improve your sperm DNA and its overall quality.
What causes Sperm DNA Damage?
Sperm DNA damage is usually caused by oxidative stress, increasing the prevalence of free radicals which then attack DNA molecules, leading to breaks in the DNA strands.
DNA damage can be associated with underlying medical conditions, such as varicocele, infection or fever.
Physical agents such as radiation and heat, cigarette smoke, airborne pollutants, chemical agents such as anticancer drugs, sexually transmitted infections, and biological factors such as increasing male age, elevated body mass index, and diabetes are also environmental and lifestyle factors known to affect sperm DNA integrity.
What does a Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test look at?
Sperm DNA fragmentation is not tested as part of a typical semen analysis. A DNA test does more than purely assessing the visible quality of the sperm, it looks inside your sperm, in minute detail, to assess the physical coding structure itself, highlighting any breakages or damage to the links within your DNA code.
Is a Sperm DNA Fragmentation test safe?
Sperm DNA damage testing is a non-invasive procedure performed on a semen sample, usually before treatment as a diagnostic test. There are no additional known risks for the patient undergoing fertility treatment or any child born as a result of fertility treatment.
Can Sperm DNA Damage be reversed/improved?
The good news is that once diagnosed, we can advise you of appropriate actions to identify treatment options and lifestyle changes to lower your DNA fragmentation levels. Reducing the DNA fragmentation levels will ultimately improve your fertility and increase your chances of pregnancy.
How to order a Sperm DNA Fragmentation Test
IVF Matters are proud partners of Examen, the leading sperm DNA testing laboratory here in the UK.
By scheduling a test through us, you will receive your results within 14 days by email and can discuss your results in a free complimentary call with our Fertility Consultant, Dr Irfana Koita [FRCOG].
DNA fragmentation in spermatozoa: a historical review [Andrology. 2017 Jul;5(4):622-630.doi: 10.1111/andr.12381.]
- Prevalence of abnormal sperm DNA denaturation in fertile and infertile men [Urology. 2002 Dec;60(6):1069-72.doi: 10.1016/s0090-4295(02)01975-1.]
- What should be done for men with sperm DNA fragmentation? Clin Exp Reprod Med. 2018 Sep; 45(3): 101–109.]