New Research on Sperm Motility Could Help Diagnose Male Infertility

New Research on Sperm Motility Could Help Diagnose Male Infertility

Researchers from the University of Toledo have discovered new movement in sperm that provides innovative avenues for diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for treating male infertility.

The research published in Nature Communications finds that the atypical centriole in the sperm acts as a transmission system that controls twitching in the head of the sperm — mechanically harmonizing the sperm tail movement to the new head movement.

The centriole has historically been considered a rigid structure that acts like a shock absorber.

“We think the atypical centriole in the sperm’s neck is an evolutionary innovation whose function is to make your sperm move better,” stated Dr. Tomer Avidor-Reiss, Professor of Biological Sciences in the University of Toledo College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “Reproductive success depends on the ability of sperm to swim through female reproductive tract barriers while out-competing their rivals to fertilize the egg.”

Led by Ph.D. candidate Sushil Khanal, the research provides groundbreaking discovery in human sperm that has changed the dogma in reproductive biology. The newly detected sperm structure — called the atypical centriole — may contribute to infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects.

“Together, these studies call for a revision in our understanding of sperm centrioles both in sperm movement and in the early embryo,” Avidor-Reiss stated. “If the centriole is defective, this coupling between the sperm tail and head is going to be defective. In a patient when we don’t know what is wrong, potentially we can look at the way the sperm’s tail moves and reverse engineer it to determine centriole functionality to determine couple’s infertility.”

This is encouraging data that we hope may lead to future advances in sperm testing that is not currently available.

Abnormal Sperm Motility (Movement)

Sperm must be motile (moving) to travel from the vagina, where they are usually deposited, into the uterus, and through the fallopian tube to meet an egg. If fewer sperm are motile or are not moving efficiently, it is less likely that fertilization will occur. Currently there is not a treatment to improve sperm motility, but research is ongoing.

The following sperm motility factors are diagnosed during a semen analysis.

  • Percentage motile: this is the percentage of all moving sperm visualized in a microscope field from an ejaculate (semen) sample.
  • Forward progression: this is an assessment of the movement of the sperm, often graded using terms such as forwardly progressive, sluggish, and immobile.
  • Total motile count (TMC): This is a calculation of the total number of motile sperm in a single ejaculate sample. This number can be helpful in determining the utility of intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Treatments for Male Infertility

A reproductive endocrinologist can develop a treatment plan to help couples who cannot conceive due to male infertility.

Sometimes, a urology consult will be requested to further investigate and treat the cause of male infertility.

Common fertility treatments for male infertility include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and quitting smoking. Studies regarding supplements to improve sperm motility have not shown a consistent benefit to date.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves the collection and washing of sperm, and then placing the sperm directly into the uterus. It is often used to treat mild male infertility.
  • In vitro insemination (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a procedure that involves a single sperm cell being injected into a single egg to create an embryo.
  • Sperm aspiration is a surgical procedure that involves a fertility doctor inserting a needle directly into the testicle or epididymis to extract the sperm, which can then be used for IVF.
  • Hormone therapy in the setting of deficiency to stimulate production of sperm in the testicle
  • Vasectomy reversal to allow sperm to be released in a man’s semen during ejaculation
  • Donor sperm may be needed for advanced cases of male infertility in which a man’s sperm is not viable or available. Donor sperm can be used in IUI or IVF.

To learn more about this topic and speak to one of our medical professionals about fertility treatment, you can request a consultation here.

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