With sperm quality declining worldwide in recent decades and more and more couples seeking IVF treatment to conceive, understanding the causes of infertility has become a pressing issue.
Researchers at the Fertility and Reproductive Program at the Hunter Medical Institute in Australia have identified a relationship between poor-quality sperm and metabolic processes that occur in both other diseases, suggesting the former may not be an isolated health problem. It suggests that
This process, known as lipid peroxidation, involves free radicals attacking unsaturated fatty acids in lipid membranes, causing lipid degradation and cell damage.
These free radicals, aka reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed in the body by enzymes or other reactions, but external sources include ionizing radiation, ultraviolet light, cigarette smoke, infectious diseases, environmental toxins, exposure to pesticides, and poor diet. increase.
Although lipid peroxidation is normal, it can become toxic to cells under certain conditions, and sperm are very sensitive to their environment, making sperm a useful tool for global stress throughout the body. regarded as a barometer.
“Infertility is the canary in the coal mine. It is one of the first to be affected when environmental stress is a problem,” says Dr. Elizabeth Bromfield, a researcher at the University of Newcastle.
“It’s not just about men’s fertility, there’s also 20 years of research suggesting that men with lower fertility die younger and have less healthy years. It’s also about their overall mortality. are also related.”
Bromfield went on to say that their team identified commonalities in cellular damage that link poor sperm quality to autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular and genitourinary diseases, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, and cancer. .
Understanding and mitigating the effects of lipid peroxidation
Researchers are now seeking to better understand the role of a protein (ALOX15) involved in lipid damage resulting from the lipid peroxidation process and how it leads to the cellular damage seen in many diseases.
“We believe pharmacological inhibitors can offset that damage in the short term,” said Bromfield.
She also said that IVF clinicians should ensure that men aged 25-40 with poor sperm quality are referred to receive detailed health checks and advice on lifestyle interventions. emphasized.
A full paper on the team’s findings has been published in Nature Reviews Urology.