Unlocking Male Infertility: Why Sperm DNA Fragmentation Testing Matters
When the topic of infertility comes up, it is now common knowledge that both partners can be contributors. Where the male partner is concerned, the reasons to be explored have become so important that the subject of SDF (sperm DNA fragmentation) testing for processing human semen was added to the recent 6th edition of the WHO (World Health Organisation) Manual.
SDF occurs when the DNA strands within the sperm cells break or are damaged. High levels of SDF can have a negative effect on male fertility and sometimes lead to genetic malformation. It has come to light that certain conditions and risk factors are involved in infertile men who have high SDF. Hence, the importance of DNA testing cannot be negated.
UMI – unexplained male infertility: Those infertile men who have not been identified with any specific cause for infertility and have a normal semen analysis come under this bracket. It has been noted that sperm from such men have much higher SDF levels in comparison with fertile men.
IMI – Idiopathic male infertility: This refers to infertile men who also do not have any identifiable cause for infertility but who have reduced semen quality. Oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT) is one of the most common causes of subfertility. This occurs when there is a reduced count of sperm, abnormal morphology and low motility which is mainly dysfunctional. It has been noted that men with OAT have notably higher SDF levels when compared with men with normal semen parameters.
RPL: Recurrent pregnancy loss: This term is used when, after natural conception, 2 or more miscarriages take place. High SDF levels in the male partner have been found to cause recurrent pregnancy loss.
Varicocele: Clinical varicocele (enlarged and blocked veins around the testes) are the cause of decreased sperm quality – count and motility as well as an increase in deformed sperm. Men with this problem have elevated SDF levels in comparison. Varicocelectomy (surgical repair) can bring down SDF and increase chances of fertility.
Oxidative stress: is caused by an excessive production of ROS (reactive oxidative species) which can lead to male infertility. SDF is known to be caused by oxidative stress.
Lifestyle: Certain habits like smoking, alcoholism, excessive eating can have an impact on male fertility. Men who are obese, smoke heavily or drink alcohol are likely to have higher levels of SDF which, in turn, can lead to infertility.
ART (assisted reproductive technologies): In some cases, SDF does not affect fertilization or pregnancy rates after ART treatment. However, in others, it can reduce these rates as well as implantation and can affect the embryo quality. It is also associated with higher risks of miscarriages and lower live birth rates.
As can be seen from the above, the significance of SDF on male fertility is enormous. Hence, the testing of SDF is also important, as it can assist both the fertility specialist and the couple in making decisions on treatment.
We, at Andrology Centre, offer both the initial semen analysis as well as the DFI (sperm DNA fragmentation index) tests. It is with pride that we state that we are the only authorised laboratory in India to carry out the SCSA (sperm chromatin structure assay) test. The results are therefore genuine and accurate.