R & D: Oxidative Stress & Sperm DNA Integrity:
There are approximately 200 cell types that make up all the tissues and organs in a human body. For example, the brain is primarily made up of neurons, the liver is mostly made up of hepatocytes, and the cardiomyocytes make up most of the heart. For reasons poorly understood, most if not all cell types can experience elevated concentrations of highly reactive oxidizing species commonly known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). These can impact normal cellular function.
Cells control excess ROS with a wide variety of antioxidant defense molecules. However, if ROS levels exceed the antioxidant capacity of the cell, excess ROS can chemically modify nearby molecules, consequently impairing cell function. This phenomenon is known as cell oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can occur from a high turnover of ROS, deteriorated levels of antioxidant molecules or a combination of both. Many scientists now believe that supplementing with antioxidants normally present in healthy cells will restore the correct redox balance and promote healthy tissues.
Sperm cells are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress for two reasons. Firstly, sperm cell membranes contain unusually high amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids which are easily damaged by ROS, impairing motility and membrane fusion events with the egg. Secondly, oxidative stress adversely impacts sperm DNA integrity, allowing genetic changes to accumulate. Maintaining high sperm lipid and DNA integrity is therefore essential not only for normal conception and the maintenance of a healthy pregnancy but also for the correct transmission of the paternal DNA code.
Can we test for Sperm DNA Integrity?
Yes. There are multiple tests for measuring sperm DNA integrity. There are many types of DNA damage; some tests measure the actual sperm DNA damage while other tests assess the susceptibility of sperm DNA to damage. Even if you have already had a semen analysis performed, a DNA integrity test could tell you more about the quality of your sperm, since DNA damage is not always accompanied by reduced motility, concentration, or abnormal morphology. Some tests are available commercially although the costs are not usually covered by the insurance companies. The two tests commonly suggested by IVF physicians are SCSA and COMET. These tests are not usually carried out by IVF centers but can be ordered through them. Alternatively, you can order the tests yourself privately. In the US, the SCSA test is offered by “SCSA Diagnostics”. In the UK, the COMET assay is offered as “SpermComet”. For more information on the SCSA test, please see our "Diagnosis of Sperm DNA Damage" page.
Research & Development
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