Tag Archives: Male Infertility

Adult stem cells may lead to new infertility treatment

A special class of adult stem cells, known as human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, has for the first time been reprogrammed into cells that develop into human eggs and sperm. The research, carried out by members of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)’s Broad Stem Cell Research Center, was published in the January 27 online edition of the journal Stem Cells. Derived from adult body cells that have been engineered to return to an embryonic state, iPS cells have the ability to become every cell type in the human body – a characteristic they share with embryonic stem (ES) cells. In this study the iPS cells were coaxed into forming the germ line precursor cells that are capable of giving rise to sperm and eggs. ‘This finding could be important for people who are rendered infertile through disease or injury’. said Amander Clark, the senior author of the study. ‘We may, one day, be able to replace the germ cells that are lost, and these germ cells would be specific and genetically related to that patient’. Many infertile couples would see this process as preferable to using eggs or sperm from a donor who would then become one of the child’s genetic parents. However, Clark cautioned that scientists are still many years from offering treatments involving iPS cells to infertile patients. There are many uncertainties and dangers that need to be resolved. For example, the process of reprogramming involves using viruses to deliver genes to the cells, potentially increasing the likelihood of genetic abnormalities and cancers. Crucially, Clark’s team found that the germ line cells derived from iPS cells did not perform certain key regulatory processes as well as those generated from ES cells. The associated increased risk of chromosomal errors, or abnormal growth, could have serious health consequences for any child conceived using egg or sperm obtained in this way. Therefore Clark believes that it is vital that research using human ES cells continues. These cells can be derived from left over embryos used during in vitro fertilisation, and would otherwise be destroyed, yet their use is controversial and the topic remains fiercely debated.

Sources : Los Angeles Times, IVF News

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Second hand smoke affects fertility

If you need another reason to quit smoking, consider that it may diminish your chances of being a parent or grandparent. Scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that women exposed to second hand smoke, either as adults or children, were significantly more likely to face fertility problems and suffer miscarriages.

 second-hand-smoke1An epidemiologic analysis of more than 4,800 non-smoking women showed those who were exposed to second hand smoke six or more hours per day as children and adults faced a 68 percent greater chance of having difficulty getting pregnant and suffering one or more miscarriages. The study is published online in Tobacco Control and is one of the first publications to demonstrate the lasting effects of second hand smoke exposure on women during childbearing years.

“These statistics are breathtaking and certainly points to yet another danger of second hand smoke exposure,” said Luke J. Peppone, Ph.D., research assistant professor at Rochester’s James P. Wilmot Cancer Center.

 In the study, four out of five women reported exposure to second hand smoke during their lifetime. Half of the women grew up in a home with smoking parents and nearly two-thirds of them were exposed to some second hand smoking at the time of the survey.

More than 40 percent of these women had difficulty getting pregnant (infertility lasting more than a year) or suffered miscarriages, some repeatedly.

 “We all know that cigarettes and second hand smoke are dangerous. Breathing the smoke has lasting effects, especially for women when they’re ready for children,” said Peppone, who analyzed information in the Patient Epidemiology Data System, a well-studied cohort that has yielded information on a variety of cancers.

 Peppone analyzed surveys collected from 4,804 women who visited Roswell Park Cancer Institute for health screenings or cancer care from 1982-1998. The 16-page survey focused on lifestyle, habits, family and personal health history, and occupational and environmental exposures. Each participant in this study reported that they had never smoked, and had been pregnant at least once or tried to become pregnant.

Participants reported whether one or both of their parents smoked and if they lived with or worked with smokers as adults. They also estimated the amount of time they were exposed to second hand smoke.

 Peppone acknowledges that the data is based upon self-reporting and that is not perfect. However, he said “Women, especially mothers, have extremely accurate recall. Mothers can easily recall details like how long they breastfed, what vitamins they took during prenatal care, and childhood activities.”

 Many of the women in the study grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, long before the surgeon general issued the first warning about the dangers of cigarette smoking in 1964. Since then, millions of dollars were spent to study the dangers of cigarette smoking. Tobacco use contributes to more than nearly 90 percent of all deadly lung cancers and 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S., and a host of other health problems.

 Since the mid-1960s, smoking bans and government-funded, anti-smoking campaigns have encouraged smokers to quit and discouraged others from starting using a number of passive and aggressive techniques. Smoking rates have declined, however people continue to use tobacco and suffer the health risks.

The study was funded by a National Cancer Institute grant and was previously presented at the Society for Behavioral Medicine and Society of Research of Nicotine and Tobacco conferences.

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Couple Celebrate Their Miracle Baby

A mother has become the first in Britain to have a successful pregnancy after receiving a double organ transplant.

Emma Smith, 37, from Little Wymondley gave birth to healthy 6lb baby Oliver at the end of last month despite having a donor pancreas and kidney. 

It is extremely rare because anti-rejection drugs, which must be taken for life, can cause infertility or complications during pregnancy. 

Ms Smith, who lives with her boyfriend Steve, said: “After my transplants I did wonder if I would ever be able to have kids. When I found out it was a complete surprise. The suppressants lower fertility and it is very rare to get pregnant and to go on to have a birth without complications. 

“They didn’t have any data about being pregnant on the drugs I was on, but they didn’t want to take the risk of changing them and damaging my organs so they kept me on the same drugs and monitored me very carefully. 

“I’m thinking of having another baby now. This one has gone so well, I’m quite reassured about it. 

“I hope it shows other people who have had a transplant that they can have children – if it gives them hope then that’s great.” 

Emma was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 11 and had to have daily injections of insulin. Because of the disease her organs deteriorated until it was necessary to have the transplants five years ago. 

She gave birth at St Mary’s Hospital, London, under the care of leading surgeon Professor Nadey Hakim. 

Prof Hakim said: “It’s special because the fact of having had a transplant you need to be on anti-rejection therapy. Any medication could be detrimental to the foetus and these are very potent drugs. 

“With this little small baby we had to be very careful to have just enough medication on board so the baby doesn’t get damaged. 

“It should encourage patients who’ve had transplants to have a normal life – people will not say ‘I’ve had a transplant I can’t get pregnant’.

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Easing fertility through lifestyle changes

ls11Couples who have been trying to conceive can easily grow impatient when their plans don’t go exactly, or as easily, as planned. But before concluding that they may have certain fertility problems or that they need fertility drugs or treatments, it is good to first take a closer look into the way they are leading their lives.

 A study by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has found that women have a reduced risk of infertility due to ovulatory disorders if they adopt a combination of healthy lifestyle and dietary measures. The study, published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, was based on 17,544 women who were tracked for eight years as they attempted to get pregnant or became pregnant.   According to Dr Chavarro, the team leader,  ‘as women started following more of these recommendations, their risk of infertility dropped substantially for every one of the dietary and lifestyle strategies undertaken’. Senior author on the paper, and chair  of the HSPH Department of Nutrition, Walter Willett, said that ‘the key message of this paper is that making the right dietary choices and including the right amount of physical activity in your daily life may make a large difference in your probability of becoming fertile if you are experiencing problems with ovulation’. Infertility affects one in six couples, according to US studies, with ovulatory problems identified in 18 to 30 per cent of cases.

 There are some steps you can take to maximize your fertility and chances of conception, and have a healthier pregnancy. Simple lifestyle changes like eating healthier and quitting smoking can make a difference, as can regular exercise.

What you can do:

Following are some tips on how to maximize your chances of conception and your health before and during pregnancy.

Body Weight:

Being overweight or underweight can affect the chances of ovulating normally in a woman. It has been found that women who have 17% to 21% of their total body weight as fat provide the ideal condition for ovulation. Have less or more body fat may hinder your menstrual cycle, make conception difficult. Women that are underweight may want to consider putting on some weight if they find that menstruation tends to be sporadic. Additionally, being underweight may indicate that you will have a hard time producing the extra amount of energy required for pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight before conception is therefore advisable.

Overweight women with ovulation and menstrual cycle problems may want to lose some weight if they are having troubles conceiving. However, overweight women do not necessarily need to lose a significant amount of weight in order to help their conception rates. Even slightly reducing your weight can increase your chances of conceiving many folds. An Australian study found that, as soon as a group of obese women lost almost 20 pounds, their bodies began to spontaneously ovulate again. 

 

Eat Healthy

ls3A healthy diet is essential to your health — and your baby’s. Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (at least five servings per day), eat low-fat dairy foods, and drink plenty of fluids for optimal health.

A recent study also suggests that woman’s diet around the time of conception can influence the gender of her baby. The study, completed by the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, appears in the Royal Society journal Biological Sciences and alleges that a woman who eats a high-calorie diet — and regular breakfasts — might have greater odds of having a boy. Participating in the study were 740 first-time pregnant women in the UK, who provided records of their eating habits before and just after becoming pregnant. Researchers found that 56% of women with the highest caloric intake around the time of becoming pregnant had boys, compared to just 45% among women with the lowest caloric intake.

 

Consider Going Organic

ls2Organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products do not contain pesticides or synthetic growth hormones that many conventional foods may contain. What’s more, studies have shown that organically grown fruits and vegetables are actually more nutrient-rich than their conventional counterparts. Pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, may wish to switch to organic foods for better nutrition.

 

Exercise Regularly

ls4A healthy lifestyle also includes exercise. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that regular exercise (five times a week for at least 45 minutes), as well as a healthy diet, boost fertility by keeping body weight at a normal level and relieving stress and anxiety. In addition, women who are overweight or obese have been shown to have increased perinatal mortality risk when they become pregnant. Exercise regularly for your health and the health of your baby to be.

A new study by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group reports that women can decrease their chances of contracting gestational diabetes by not gaining weight. Women in the study who gained about 5-22 pounds each year prior to the five years before getting pregnant were 2.5 times more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is marked by glucose intolerance that is first experienced during pregnancy, and can require daily insulin injections. It is also associated with fetal complications. The condition usually resolves after childbirth.

 

Smoking

It has been known for a long time that smoking has a negative effect on conception but many fail to realise just how drastically smoking effects both male and female fertility. In men who smoke, sperm counts average 17% lower than those who do not smoke and it can also affect the health of the sperms.

Women who smoke not only increase the time it takes them to conceive as well as raise their the risk of spontaneous miscarriage, they also jeopardize the health of their baby yet to be born. Female smokers are also at a greater risk for delivering premature or low birth weight babies and developing pelvic inflammatory disease.

Studies have shown that smokers are 30% less fertile and require a much higher dose of fertility drugs if they opt for fertility treatments than non-smokers. Passive smoking, too, is equally dangerous to women and their pregnancy

The effects of reducing or totally stopping smoking can produce noticeable results in days.


Alcohol, Caffeine and Drugs

Regularly drinking alcohol can reduce fertility levels by up to 50%. It can also decrease sperm count while increasing the production of abnormal sperm. Similarly, drugs like marijuana and cocaine have been found to cause disruptions in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Another chemical to avoid in order to improve your chances of conception is caffeine, which can be found in tea, coffee, chocolate and soft drinks. Caffeine reduces the fertility level of both men and women. Some studies have also shown a link between consuming large amounts of caffeine and delayed conception. What’s more, studies have also shown women who consume more than 300 mg (three 5 oz cups of coffee) a day may also be at an increased risk for miscarriage.

 

Reducing Stress

Stress can have a big effect on fertility. In women under stress, the reproductive hormone prolactin is over-produced and this can interfere with ovulation. The hypothalamus stops secreting gonadotrophin hormone, which in turn will affect the release of both the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. As these hormones stimulate ovulation – fertility is affected.

 

Know Your Cycle

It is essential to understand your monthly (or not so monthly, in some cases) cycle in order to maximize your chances of conception. Keep track of the days you menstruate and the length of your cycle for a few months, and use an ovulation calendar to track your ovulation to time your intercourse for conception.

 

So, there you have it – a range of natural ways to increase your fertility. Each of these lifestyle changes won’t guarantee that you will get pregnant, but following these changes may shift the odds and help you get the baby a little easier. Good Luck!!

 

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Cell phone risk to sperm supported

An in vitro comparison study has strengthened concerns that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones impairs male fertility.

 Ashok Agarwal (Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, USA) and colleagues set out to validate the implications of recent epidemiologic studies, which reported reductions in sperm motility, morphology, and viability associated with cell phone exposure.

 They studied neat semen samples from 23 normal healthy donors and nine infertility patients. They divided the samples into two aliquots and exposed one of each sample to radiation from cell phones in talk mode, leaving the second aliquot unexposed to serve as controls.

 Analysis revealed significantly lower sperm motility and sperm viability in aliquots of exposed compared with unexposed sperm (49 vs 52 percent and 52 vs 59 percent, respectively).

 Levels of reactive oxygen species were also significantly higher in samples of exposed compared with unexposed sperm (0.11 vs 0.06 x106 cpm/20 million sperm), Agarwal et al report.

 Total antioxidant capacity and levels of DNA damage did not differ significantly between the two groups.

 “We speculate that keeping the cell phone in a trouser pocket in talk mode may negatively affect spermatozoa and impair male fertility,” the researchers conclude.

 Source: Fertility and Sterility 2008; Advance online publication  

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Freezing improves DNA integrity

Gamete cryopreservation could help improve the fertility of men whose spermatozoa show a high level of prefreeze DNA fragmentation, study findings indicate.

 Laura Thomson (Fertility First, Hurstville, Australia) and co-authors note potential cryoinjury of sperm from subfertile men is an issue of primary concern “considering that subfertile men form a very large proportion of the men requiring semen cryopreservation.”

The findings were observed during a study comparing different cryoprotectants used to store spermatozoa for fertility treatment. The study involved 320 men who presented for fertility investigations and provided semen samples.

Post-thaw sperm DNA integrity was unaffected by the type of cryoprotectant used during freezing, but showed a significant, negative correlation with the prefreeze level of DNA fragmentation. Among men with prefreeze sperm DNA fragmentation levels within the normal range, 89 percent showed an increase in fragmentation post-thaw. Conversely, 64 percent of those with very high levels of prefreeze fragmentation showed a decrease in fragmentation post-thaw.

The authors suggest that the result “gives rise to a possible novel method of reducing fragmentation in sperm used for assisted reproductive technology treatment cycles, in some cases without the need for invasive and expensive testicular sperm retrievals.”

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Diabetes and male infertility

Researchers have found that diabetes may affect sperm quality, after a study comparing the DNA in sperm from diabetic and non-diabetic men found more DNA damage in the sperm cells of the diabetic men.

 

The study, conducted by the research group at Queen’s University Belfast, with findings published in the journal Human Reproduction, found that around 52 per cent of the DNA in the sperm cells of diabetic men was fragmented, compared with only 32 per cent for the non-diabetic men. Fragmentation of the DNA in sperm is one of the main causes of male infertility, because it prevents the sperm from delivering intact genetic information to the egg, which is required for the creation of a viable embryo.

 

The study compared the sperm from 27 diabetic men with that from 29 non-diabetic men in their early 30s. Dr Ishola Agbaje, who lead the research project, said, ‘Our study identifies important evidence of increased DNA fragmentation of nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA deletions in sperm from diabetic men’. He stated that these findings would have implications for male fertility, which has already been decreasing over the last 50 years. The increasing global incidence of diabetes could further propel the decline in male fertility.

 

Professor Sheena Lewis, director of the Reproductive Medicine Research Group, and co-author of the paper, said that the study was very small, and so served to highlight a possible concern. She stated that ‘our study shows increased levels of sperm DNA damage in diabetic men. From a clinical perspective this is important, particularly given the overwhelming evidence that sperm DNA damage impairs male fertility and reproductive health’.

 

Transcription is the synthesis of RNA under the direction of DNA, and is the first step towards gene expression, where the information from the gene becomes a product such as a protein translating the genetic information into a cellular function. If there are errors in transcription, there will also be errors in the function of the gene.

 Sperm DNA quality is known to be associated with decreased embryo quality, low embryo implantation rates, higher miscarriage rates, and some serious childhood diseases, in particular some childhood cancers. Over the years possible causes for sperm DNA fragmentation have been suggested but to date the exact mechanism for the damage remains unknown, say the scientists.

 Professor Lewis said that further research would be needed to quantify the exact nature of the DNA damage caused by diabetes, and whether there were additional health effects for the children of diabetic fathers. Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, stressed the importance of the quality of sperm DNA, and further said that ‘it would be important to understand the mechanism by which this damage occurs so that if it can be avoided we can work out how to do this’.

 

Matt Hunt, science information office at Diabetes UK, called for further research, after labelling the findings alarming. He said ‘this is the first research to suggest DNA damage may be occurring at a cellular level and that it is a cause for great concern’.

 

 

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