Diabetes threat to fertility for males

Diabetes damages DNA in men’s sperm and may affect fertility, UK research suggests. Diabetes is a well-recognised cause of male sexual dysfunction but is not, currently, seen as a cause of male infertility.

But in the first study to compare the quality of DNA in sperm from diabetic and non-diabetic men, the researchers found that DNA in the nuclei of sperm cells had greater levels of fragmentation in diabetic men (52 per cent), than in non-diabetic men (32 per cent).

The latest research saw sperm samples taken from 27 type-1 diabetics aged between 18 and 60. Samples were taken from a control group of 29 non-diabetic men.

To investigate male fertility, the researchers measured both the nuclear DNA and the mitochondrial DNA of the sperm samples.

Nuclear DNA fragmentation was measured by gel electrophosis assay, while polymerase chain reaction was used to identify any mitochondrial DNA deletions in the sperm samples.

The researchers found that semen volume was less in diabetic men (2.6ml) compared to non-diabetic men (3.3ml).

Ninety one per cent of diabetic men displayed more than two mitochondrial deletions compared with 67 per cent of the control group.

There were no significant differences in sperm concentration, structure of the sperm or their ability to move. Although the men in the study had type-1 diabetes, the researchers have found the same DNA damage in sperm from men with type-two diabetes.

Lead researcher Dr Ishola Agbaje, a research fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Research Group at Queen’s University Belfast, said that sperm disorders were thought to cause or contribute to infertility in 40–50 per cent of infertile couples.

‘The increasing incidence of systemic diseases such as diabetes may exacerbate this decline in male fertility,’ warned Dr Agbaje.

What do you think? Email your comments to gpletters@haymarket.com

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