A couple between 29 and 33 years of age, with no fertility problems, has a 20 to 25% chance of conceiving on any given month. After 6 months of trying, 60% of couples will conceive without any medical assistance. If after one year of sexual intercourse without contraception, pregnancy is not achieved, the couple is considered infertile. The male factor is responsible for 34% of cases of infertility, while 30% of cases have an unfavourable diagnosis for both the woman and the man. It is for this reason that early, comprehensive semen analysis can identify potential problems to avoid embarking upon costly and repeated Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
Conventional semen analysis only studies spermatozoa concentration, motility and morphology. It is an incomplete study, as it omits analysis of one of the most important parameters, the integrity of the DNA molecule. In addition, knowing the levels of oxidative stress and the quality of the spermatozoon’s membrane guarantees a better diagnosis for subsequent fertility treatment. 15% of men who are considered infertile present normal semen analysis results.
DNA fragmentation, excessive oxidative stress, and the lack of vitality in the spermatozoon correlate directly with a low fertility rate and with failures in embryonic development. This translates into an increase in the number of cycles needed to achieve pregnancy through IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), deterioration of embryo quality and repeated miscarriages.
Based on the percentage of fragmentation, level of oxidation and vitality of sperm cells, your medical professional will validate the semen sample and, together with the semen analysis, will decide on the reproductive technique and treatment that is most appropriate to increase the likelihood of success.
Treatment with antioxidants may significantly reduce levels of DNA fragmentation. The response to treatment varies as a function of the causes that can cause said damage: if this results from toxic factors or high temperatures that activate sperm caspases and endonucleases, it is difficult to modify levels of DNA fragmentation in sperm.
Spermatozoa that come from the first portion of the ejaculate have lower levels of DNA fragmentation. On the other hand, repeated ejaculation or the use of spermatozoa originating in the testicle can achieve similar results depending on the type of patient. The effectiveness of these strategies must be evaluated by your medical professional in each case, which varies among patients.
Although semen quality may be the same during different cycles of an individual’s spermatozoa production and maturation, it may also vary due to external factors such as stress, bacterial or viral infection, fever, or a change in lifestyle habits. It is important to know the quality of the ejaculate to be used in Assisted Reproduction.
In IUI, the probability of reaching a full-term pregnancy is practically zero in individuals with more than 30% fragmentation. In addition, DNA fragmentation is a parameter indicative of the presence of infections such as Chlamydia trichomatis and Mycoplasma as well as variocele. In these cases, the patients present sperm DNA fragmentation rates above 30%. Levels greater than this percentage influence the rate of fertilization and embryo quality, leading to a greater rate of repeated miscarriage and lower reproductive success.
DNA fragmentation is important when it comes to selecting a couple’s assisted reproductive technology. It has been demonstrated that it is related to the probability of full-term pregnancy during IUI cycles. Levels above 30% reduce the likelihood of success from 19% to 1.5%. Knowing this data, we can select alternative techniques to IUI. In IVF treatments, fragmentation levels below 25% lead to a live birth rate of 33%. With fragmentation levels greater than 50%, this rate falls to 13%.
Halotech offers different kits that allow identification of sperm DNA fragmentation levels (Halosperm), oxidative stress levels (Oxisperm) and the quality of the spermatozoon’s membrane (Vitaltest)
The patient just has to follow the instructions of his medical professional. They will need a semen sample, which will be processed by the laboratory personnel, following a rapid and easy-to-follow established laboratory protocol.
Halotech’s in vitro tests offer immediate results. Fragmentation and oxidation tests show a certain result in less than an hour, while for the vitality test, the information is instantaneous.
DNA fragmentation (Halosperm): non-invasive technique that analyses ejaculated spermatozoa. It aims to discriminate between a normal and affected spermatozoon, based on direct correlation of the presence of a spermatozoon with a large chromatin dispersion halo (normal spermatozoon) or without a dispersion halo (abnormal spermatozoon).
Oxidation (Oxisperm): uses a reactive gel that changes colour in a recent ejaculate. Using a colour scale, the degree of the sample’s oxidation can be determined.
Vitality (Vitaltest): allows the distinction of live and dead spermatozoa, based on the integrity of their membranes.
A DNA fragmentation level greater than 30% is considered risky, and it is therefore considered that there is a male factor associated with the reproductive failure.
Sperm DNA damage is a multifactorial process. Tobacco use, obesity, tight clothing, ingestion of certain drugs, fever, advanced age, chemotherapy or radiotherapy, are environmental factors that can produce an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation levels. Some natural factors like improper maturation or oxidative stress translate into failures during the production of spermatozoa in the testicle, which result in the same response.
Many professionals use information from Halotech solutions at the start of treatment, supplementing conventional semen analysis. In addition, fragmentation, oxidation, and vitality analysis is especially recommended for:
Freezing samples in liquid nitrogen does not modify DNA fragmentation of spermatozoa, so the test can be performed on frozen samples that can then be used in different Assisted Reproductive Technologies. After thawing, the samples must be used quickly to avoid increasing damage.