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Recent Studies Into Sperm DNA Fragmentation

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Sperm DNA Fragmentation

Recently, there has been increased emphasis on the evaluation of sperm quality. Much of this has been due a growing realisation that a sperm or semen test is actually of limited value. Sperm, in essence, act as little more than vehicles by which DNA is carried from the male to the female egg.

Only very few make it to their goal, and along the way a potentially damaging process is undertaken, where the protein blocks designed to protect the sperm can very often fail, leaving DNA susceptible to damage and at risk of becoming fragmented.

There have been significant recent studies into DNA fragmentation, and I have outlined below the latest findings into an area of fertility previous not given the attention it perhaps deserves.

Historically, infertility has been a problem that was believed to originate solely from the woman. About 300 years ago, people were pretty sure that “what father does is always right!” The Dutchman Nicolas Hartsoecker was one of the first to look at a sperm sample under the microscope. He drew a ‘Homunculus’, a small child in the head of the sperm cell, and the belief was that anything produced by the man would have to be perfect.

This example tells us that one of our problems when trying to understand new research is our entire perception of the problem! Thus, approximately 75% of all women believe that it can only be the woman that is the problem when a fertilised egg does not implant in the uterus.

And that is despite the fact that nowadays most men are aware of the fact that sperm quality can be a problem. Indeed, in approximately every fourth childless couple, the reason for the involuntary childlessness is DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells. The vast majority of these men have normal sperm quality, the problem being that you cannot see when the genome (the DNA) is not packed properly in the sperm cell. The concentration of sperm cells can be fine, they are swimming properly and can easily fertilise the egg. However, the fertilised egg is still doomed to perish.

The reason for this is that the genome from the sperm cell has been damaged (fragmented) during the long journey to the egg. The egg might be able to carry out small repairs of the sperm cell’s DNA, but major damage is fatal for the further development of the egg. In other words, the woman’s eggs might be perfectly fine – but with a fragmented genome in the sperm cells, the fertilisation will not result in a viable foetus.

The most extensive study carried out so far regarding the significance of DNA fragmentation in sperm cells was conducted by Mona Bungum at Malmø University Hospital and was published in 2007 in the journal Human Reproduction. The study was based on 998 treatment cycles, where the couples received either IUI, IVF or ICSI treatment. Mona showed that the DNA fragmentation index (DFI) was above 25 for approximately 27% of the infertile couples in her study.

At this level it is basically impossible to get the wished-for child through IUI treatment. For approximately 5% of the couples, the DFI was above 50. At this level, IVF treatment will not have the desired result either. In other words, this is a very frequent problem. It’s also something of a hidden problem, because when the fertilised egg starts splitting, the first breaks take place without any influence from the genome of the sperm cell. Not until there are eight cells does the egg start drawing on information from the sperm cell.

The process of developing a small child lasts through the first three months of the pregnancy, and during that period the process can be likened to reading a small manual: ‘How to make a baby’, if you will. Half the pages of this manual come from the egg and the other half come from the sperm cell. The manual might have 300 pages, and all pages have to be intact in order to get the desired result. But what if page 28 or 268 has been torn (fragmented)? What happens then? The answer is that if page 28 is damaged, the development of the egg stops early in the process.

The egg might have looked fine when the fertility specialist inserted it in the uterus, but after a short while, the development stalls, and the egg does not implant. Thus, in some cases, DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells can be the reason that biochemical pregnancy is achieved and then later lost. By the same logical process, if page 268 in the manual is damaged, the DNA fragmentation will result in an abortion later in the pregnancy.

Damage to the genome does not always result in the development of the egg stalling. In some cases, the egg can repair the damage to the DNA of the sperm cell, but much new research indicates that faults are not always repaired properly. This means that some children can be born with genetic damage caused by DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells – for example, disorders such as autism or schizophrenia.

Of course, we are all constantly made aware of the fact that the biological clock is ticking for women, while conversely, the story of Charlie Chaplin and others becoming fathers at an advanced ages are common. However, recent research shows that the biological clock does also apply to men.

A group of American researchers under the leadership of Andrew Wyrobek discovered in 2006 that if the man is 48-years-old or older, there is a 50% likelihood that he can no longer fertilise a woman. The group of researchers found out that this is, amongst other things, caused by DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells, which increases as the man gets older. It therefore cannot be ruled out that a man who has produced children in a previous relationship is now infertile due to DNA fragmentation of his sperm cells. The fact that the same man apparently has a normal sperm quality and quantity, and the fact that the woman has achieved a biochemical pregnancy, do not exclude the reality that the problem exists in the sperm.

When Nicolas Hartsoecker looked under the microscope in 1695, he was sure that all fertility problems must be caused by the woman, but we know now that the situation is somewhat different. More than 300 years later, the reason for involuntary childlessness can just as often be found in the man as in the woman. And we shouldn’t be surprised. The sperm cell is, after all, up there with the most fragile cell in the entire human body. If the genome is packed poorly and is damaged (the reasons for which can be found on the right in the fact box), the sperm cell is most likely doomed.

There is a lot of progress in DNA fragmentation research involving sperm cells at the moment, and even though it seems that men are not what they used to be, there is some underlying good news. In many cases, the packing of the genome can be improved if the cause is treated. Where this cause is and how it comes about requires greater investigation, but we know it takes at least three months before any advancement can be detected. Although definite progress for patients is slow, research in this field within the labs continues at great speed, and there is considerable promise that the years to come will offer a new world of information and optimism.

Facts regarding reasons for genome in sperm cells being packed poorly, resulting in the possibility of DNA fragmentation:

THE PHYSICIAN CAN EXAMINE AND TREAT YOU FOR THE FOLLOWING:

Leukocytospermia:

High white blood cell count in the sperm.

Diabetes:

Diabetes or pre-diabetes (hyperinsulinaemia).

Varicocele:

Abnormal enlargement of the veins from the testicles.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Temperature:

The normal temperature of the scrotum is 33.3ºC and can be increased for many reasons. Avoid hot baths or spa. Avoid tight underwear and pants. Place the portable computer on the table instead of on your lap. Turn down the heat in the car seat. High fever, for example in connection with flu, can also cause problems.

Smoking:

Quit smoking, if you can.

Overweight:

Maintain a healthy diet. Weight loss is a good idea if your BMI is above 25. Changes in the diet can also reduce hyperinsulinaemia and result in better packing of the genome in the sperm cells.

Medicine:

Many medicines cause problems. If you are taking medicine, you should inform your fertility specialist of this. Cholesterol reducing medicine, stomach ulcer remedies and antidepressants have a well-known negative effect. Regarding many types of medicine, we currently do not know whether they affect the packing of the genome in the sperm cells.

Mobile phone:

Radiation from mobile phones causes problems. When you have it on you, it should be in your breast pocket and not your trouser pocket.

WHAT IS DIFFICULT TO CHANGE?

Age:

Already having had children unfortunately provides no guarantees that problems won’t come about in future.

The environment:

Air pollution, pesticides plus various chemicals can cause problems. Always adhere to safety precautions when dealing with chemicals and pesticides. Remember to rinse vegetables and wipe off fruit.

Recently, there has been increased emphasis on the evaluation of sperm quality. Much of this has been due a growing realisation that a sperm or semen test is actually of limited value. Sperm, in essence, act as little more than vehicles by which DNA is carried from the male to the female egg.

Only very few make it to their goal, and along the way a potentially damaging process is undertaken, where the protein blocks designed to protect the sperm can very often fail, leaving DNA susceptible to damage and at risk of becoming fragmented.

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Fertility 360

NEWS: Get access to adult photos of the Cryos sperm donors

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Adult Cryos Sperm Donors Photos

Viewing adult photos of Cryos sperm donors is now a reality. Visit dk.cryosinternational.com today and get access to the new feature.

At Cryos it is now possible to access adult photos of sperm donors on our website, thus adding another dimension to your search for the perfect donor.

The unique chance to see both childhood and adult photos of your sperm donor, provides you with a more comprehensive idea of who your sperm donor is and moreover of the features of your future child. We hope that this extra dimension will upgrade your experience making your decision of a sperm donor easier.

The 5-6 adult photos are taken by a professional photographer and are a part of the donors extended profile where you also have access to childhood photos, an audio recording of the donor’s voice, a handwritten message, an emotional intelligence profile, and finally our staff impressions of the donor, amongst other exclusive features.

The adult photos require special access on our website. Visit our website and find out more and get access to this new feature now.

Please note that the person in the photos is a model and not a Cryos donor.
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Fertility 360

Fertility And Sex: Why Her Orgasm Matters

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Why her orgasm matters

For many couples, trying to conceive can make sex feel less fun and more pressured. Instead of being an intimate and enjoyable experience, baby-making sex can start to seem like a finely choreographed routine. Often, the female orgasm is one of the first things to go, but the maleorgasm is not the only orgasm that matters when it comes to fertility.

Before I dive into discussing the potential benefits of the female orgasm for fertility, it’s important to note that reaching climax is not technically essential for conception. If you never, or rarely, achieve orgasm, don’t worry, you can still get pregnant! Around 1 in 10 women don’t experience orgasm, ever. What’s more, the exact nature of the female orgasm remains somewhat elusive. Some experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation, some through vaginal intercourse, some through both, and others through something else entirely, or not at all.

Even without reaching orgasm, sexual arousal is itself beneficial to fertility. Like an orgasm, arousal is, first and foremost, a good indication that sex is enjoyable. Sexual arousal and climax causes significant changes in your levels of neurotransmitters including noradrenaline, oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, and serotonin. These ‘reward’ neurohormones help you bond to a sexual partner and make it more likely that you’ll have sex more often, thereby increasing your chances of conception.

Second, orgasm and arousal have a range of physiological effects that might aid conception, which I’ll discuss in a moment. And, third, sexual arousal and orgasms for everyone can help sperm-producing partners avoid feeling like they’re being used just for their sperm. In fact, some studies show that male partners who engage in cunnilingus prior to vaginal intercourse have greater sexual arousal and produce more semen!

HOW ORGASMS ENHANCE FERTILITY

The female orgasm can help relieve stress, and promote healthy circulation and balance in the body. Stress is a key cause of diminished libido and may also reduce the chances of conception by raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Conversely, good sex can help raise levels of oxytocin and the other neurohormones mentioned above. These help you to relax and bond to your partner.

Published in 1967, the author even went as far as suggesting that the increase in these hormones after orgasm help support conception by temporarily incapacitating you. Put simply, this ‘poleax’ effect means you’ll feel so relaxed that you’ll stay lying down, which may increase your chance of conceiving. Whether staying supine does make conception more likely is still under debate, but I’m all for promoting relaxation, so if this theory provides added motivation, go for it!

CERVICAL TENTING

There is some suggestion that orgasm affects the shape and function of the cervix. These effects, which may include cervical ‘tenting could enhance the likelihood of conception by promoting the movement of sperm into the uterus and beyond. If you are curious as to what your cervix looks like during different stages of your cycle, check out these photos.

THE ‘UP-SUCK’ THEORY

One of the main ways in which female orgasm has been linked to fertility is something called the ‘upsuck’ theory (or, sometimes, the ‘insuck’ theory). This theory proposes that the female orgasm causes uterine and vaginal contractions that actively draw semen up into the uterus and towards the fallopian tubes, thereby increasing the chances of an egg being fertilized.

Scientific evidence to support this theory is rather inconsistent, but there’s certainly no harm in trying! One proposed underlying mechanism of this theory is oxytocin-mediated uterine peristalsis, i.e. the same mechanism that causes uterine contractions during labour could be partially responsible for increasing the likelihood of conception. Indeed, some research has found higher pregnancy rates in women shown to experience this ‘insuck’ phenomenon.

SPERM RETENTION AND FERTILITY

More recently, one small study found that orgasm may increase sperm retention. This study involved women using a syringe to insert a sperm simulant (lube) prior to external stimulation to orgasm. As such, the study’s findings may be especially applicable to anyone undergoing artificial insemination (IUI).

The take-away: Chances are that if you orgasm 1 minute before or up to 45 minutes after insemination (whether artificial or otherwise), you will probably retain more sperm, which may increase your chance of conceiving.

IN CONCLUSION

To sum up, the female orgasm might enhance fertility in a variety of ways, but it isn’t essential to conception.

The take home message is that orgasm and sexual arousal itself have many benefits to fertility, partner relationships and stress relief. Don’t worry though, if you have a low libido, conception can still happen even in the absence of arousal and orgasm!

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Fertility 360

What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age across the world, and results in irregular or absent periods, acne, excess body hair and weight gain. It is also a major cause of infertility and yet is frequently misdiagnosed and often missed completely.

PCOS gets its name because under an ultrasound scan, the ovaries can look like a bunch of grapes, each one covered in what look like multiple cysts. In fact, these aren’t cysts at all, but are small, undeveloped follicles.

Symptoms

Not every woman with PCOS will get the same symptoms, but common signs to look out for include:

  • Few or no periods
  • Excess hair on the face or breasts or inside of the legs or around the nipples
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Scalp hair thinning or loss (male pattern baldness)
  • Skin tags (known as acrochordons)
  • Skin discolouration (known as acanthosis nigricans) where the skin looks ‘dirty’ on the arms, around the neck and under the breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Weight gain especially around the middle of the body
  • Difficulty in losing weight
  • Cravings and binges
  • Irregular or no ovulation
  • Difficulty in becoming pregnant
  • Recurrent miscarriages

PCOS creates a vicious cycle of hormone imbalances, which has huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of your body. With PCOS, the problem often starts with the ovaries, which are unable to produce the hormones they should, and in the correct proportions. But linked to this is the very common problem of insulin resistance. Women with PCOS very often have difficulties with blood sugar levels which can cause weight gain and the excess insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce yet more testosterone. Half of all women with PCOS do not have any problems with their weight, yet they can still have higher insulin levels than normal.

How is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosed?

The most widely accepted criteria for the diagnosis of PCOS says that you should have two out of these three problems:

  • Infrequent or no ovulation
  • Signs (either physical appearance – hirsutism or acne – or blood tests) of high levels of male hormones
  • Polycystic ovaries as seen on an ultrasound scan

The Seven Nutritional Steps to beat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Good nutrition is the foundation of your health and you should never underestimate how powerful it can be. It is the fuel that provides you with the energy to live your life and it gives your body the nutrients it needs to produce your hormones in the correct balance. The better the supply of those nutrients, the more healthily your body will function.

The fundamental aim of my nutritional approach to PCOS is to target a number of areas simultaneously so that you get the maximum effect in the minimum amount of time.

Here’s how:

  1. Switch to unrefined carbohydrates (eaten with protein) and never go more than 3 hours without food to keep your blood sugar levels balanced
  2. Eat oily fish and foods rich in Omega 3s to help your body to become more sensitive to insulin so it can overcome insulin resistance
  3. Cut out all dairy products for 3 months to bring levels of male hormones under control
  4. Eat more vegetables and pulses to which helps control male hormones
  5. Cut right back on or cut out alcohol for 12 weeks to allow your liver function to improve
  6. Cut down on caffeine to give your adrenal glands a rest
  7. Cut down on saturated fats and eliminate trans fats to help control the potentially damaging inflammatory processes PCOS causes in the body

PCOS Symptons

Best Supplements for PCOS

The use of certain vitamins and minerals can be extremely useful in helping to correct Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, along with a good diet.

Chromium

Chromium helps to encourage the formation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which is required to make insulin more efficient. A deficiency of chromium can lead to insulin resistance.  It also helps to control cravings and reduces hunger. Can help to reduce insulin resistance associated with PCOS

B vitamins

The B vitamins are very important in helping to control the symptoms of PCOS. Vitamin B2 helps to burn fat, sugar and protein into energy. B3 is a component of GTF which is released every time blood sugar rises, and vitamin B3 helps to keep the levels in balance. Vitamin B5 has been shown to help with weight loss and B6 is also important for maintaining hormone balance and, together with B2 and B3, is necessary for normal thyroid function.

Zinc

Zinc helps with PCOS as it plays a crucial role in the production of your reproductive hormones and also regulates your blood sugar.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral for dealing with PCOS because there is a strong link between magnesium levels and insulin resistance – the higher your magnesium levels the more sensitive you are likely to be to insulin.

Co-Enzyme Q10

Co-Q10 is a substance that your body produces in nearly every cell.  It helps to balance your blood sugar and lowering both glucose and insulin.

Alpha lipoic acid

This powerful antioxidant helps to regulate your blood sugar levels because it releases energy by burning glucose and it also helps to make you more insulin sensitive. It also has an effect on weight loss because if the glucose is being used for energy, your body releases less insulin and you then store less fat.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids taken in supplement form have been found to reduce testosterone levels in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Amino Acids

Certain amino acids can be very helpful for PCOS as they can improve your insulin sensitivity and also can have an effect on weight loss.

N-Acetyl cysteine

In women with PCOS this amino acid helps reduce insulin levels and makes your body more sensitive to insulin. Study using NAC in women who were clomiphene resistant and had ovarian drilling.  After ovarian drilling, the women given NAC compared to a placebo showed a significantly higher increase in both ovulation and pregnancy rates and lower incidence of miscarriage.

Arginine

Arginine can be helpful in reversing insulin resistance. In one study, a combination of both arginine and N-acetyl cysteine were given to women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  The two amino acids help to improve blood sugar and insulin control and also increased the number of menstrual cycles and ovulation with one women becoming pregnant on the second month.

Carnitine

Carnitine helps your body break down fat to release energy and can help improve insulin sensitivity.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is helpful for women with PCOS who are overweight as it helps to suppress the appetite and burn off fat.

Glutamine

This amino acid is useful for helping with sugar cravings as it can be converted to sugar for energy and so takes away the need to eat something sweet.  It also helps to build and maintain muscle which is important for fat burning.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs include three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are important in PCOS because they help to balance blood sugar and having good levels of these BCAAs can have a beneficial effect on your body weight

Inositol

A study used inositol (2,000mg) in combination with NAC (600mg), a significant increase in ovulation rates.

Having a good diet, regular exercise, controlling stress and taking key nutrients will help in getting your hormones back in balance and reducing the negative symptoms associated with PCOS.

More information can be found on www.naturalhealthpractice.com

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