Study finds new way to diagnose male infertility.
Washington: Detecting infertility in men won't take a year or longer of trial, as a study found a reliable method of screening and figuring out which treatment options will work best for patients. Michael Skinner, a Washington State University reproductive biologist and an international team of collaborators discovered infertile men have identifiable patterns of epigenetic molecules or biomarkers attached to their sperm DNA that isn't present in the fertile men.
The scientists also identified epigenetic biomarkers among infertile patients who responded to hormone therapy to treat their condition versus those who did not. Their research could eventually provide doctors with a reliable method of screening men for infertility and figuring out which treatment options will work best for their patients.
This could, in turn, save couples, where the man is incapable of having children naturally, the extended period it usually takes before a doctor will recommend they see a specialist for medically-assisted reproduction. Currently, the primary method for diagnosing male infertility is to assess sperm quantity and motility, which has been historical of limited success separating fertile from infertile males.
Skinner and his collaborators published a study on their new diagnostic approach in – Nature: Scientific Reports. "Male infertility is increasing worldwide and is recognised as playing a key role in reproductive health and disease," Skinner said.
"Having a diagnostic that tells you right away your male patient is infertile and here are the treatment options that will work for him would be immensely useful," added Skinner. Around 20 per cent of men who require in-vitro fertilisation to have children will have infertility problems where the cause is unknown.
These men are typically put on a regimen to try to have a child with their partner for a year or more before being recommended for IVF. Skinner and his collaborators wanted to see if they could come up with a diagnostic to get rid of this period of uncertainty.
The scientists knew from previous research there was a possible link between male infertility and alterations to groups of methyl molecules stuck to sperm DNA that regulate how certain genes function.
They used advanced molecular analysis techniques to see if they could reliably identify these alterations, or biomarkers, in the methyl groups attached to the sperm DNA of both fertile and infertile men who agreed to participate in a research study. They found that all of the infertile men in the study possessed a specific biomarker that the fertile men did not.
The scientists also identified another biomarker among the infertile patients that could be used to determine who would be responsive to hormone therapy treatment.