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Friday, December 4, 2009

Hope For Men With Nonobstructive Infertility

It has been thought that men with non-obstructive azoospermia (NOA), a lack of sperm in the semen not caused by an obstruction within the reproductive system, are poor candidates for IVF. Now, researchers writing in the open access journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology have shown that sperm from men with NOA and obstructive azoospermia (OA) are equally capable of producing embryos. Nina Desai led a team of researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation who carried out an in-depth analysis of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) using frozen sperm taken from the testes of 44 men with OA and 17 men with NOA. They found that, although fertilization rates were slightly improved in the OA group, there were no significant differences in implantation rates or clinical pregnancy rates. According to Desai, "The high implantation rate per embryo transferred and the resultant live births attest to the quality of embryos being produced with both types of surgically retrieved sperm". In addition to evaluating the feasibility of NOA sperm, the researchers were also able to study paternal effect on genomic activation. One of the earliest morphologic indicators of embryonic genome activation is increased cell-to-cell adherence at the 8-cell stage, leading to compaction. Desai said, "Interestingly, we found that embryonic compaction was similar in all three groups. These results suggest that zygotic activation is independent of sperm origin and type of azoospermia".


Saturday, November 21, 2009


Male infertility and tackling falling birth rates across Europe will be among the topics addressed at this year's British Andrology Society's annual conference at Queen's University in Belfast. World leaders in the field of andrology - the study of male reproduction - will meet at Queen's this week (Thursday and Friday) to discuss the latest developments in the field of fertility including the potential to create artificial sperm from stem cells.

The conference organiser, Professor Sheena Lewis from the Centre of Public Health in the University's School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, says research into male fertility is vastly underfunded. Professor Lewis said: "Male infertility is now a public health issue. Infertility affects one in six couples around Europe and the male partner is responsible for 40% of these problems. "DNA damage to sperm is a major cause of male infertility. "We know sperm DNA damage is closely associated with all fertility check points and also longer times to get pregnant and increased pregnancy loss."MORE AT…

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chemical Cocktail in Consumer Products Destroys Male Fertility

Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in a variety of consumer products are destroying male reproductive health, according to a report released by the nonprofit CHEM Trust.

An increasing number of widely used chemicals are being exposed as endocrine disruptors, many of them ingredients in plastics, cosmetics, cleaning products and even food. Most of these simulate the action of the female sex hormone estrogen.

According to report author Richard Sharpe of the Medical Research Council, long-term exposure to a wide variety of these chemicals is probably to blame, at least in part, for rising incidence of a condition known as Testicular Dysgenisis Syndrome (TDS). Exposure to endocrine disruptors can “feminize” male children even in the womb, he said, by blocking the activity of the male sex hormone testosterone.

TDS refers to a collection of observed disorders of the male reproductive system, including reduced sperm counts, malformed penis and testicular cancer.
While exposure to one endocrine disruptor might not have a great effect, Sharpe said, there are so many different chemicals out there that their cumulative results must be taken into account.
"Because it is the summation of effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that is critical, and the number of such chemicals that humans are exposed to is considerable, this provides the strongest possible incentive to minimize human exposure to all relevant hormone disruptors, especially women planning pregnancy, as it is obvious that the higher the exposure the greater the risk," he said."Chemicals that have been shown to act together to affect male reproductive health should have their risks assessed together," said Elizabeth Salter Green of the CHEM Trust.

"Currently that is not the case, and unfortunately chemicals are looked at on an individual basis. Therefore, government assurances that exposures are too low to have any effect just do not hold water because regulators do not take into account the additive actions of hormone disrupting chemicals.""It is high time that public health policy is based on good science and that regulatory authorities have health protection, rather than industry protection, uppermost in mind," she said.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gene for male infertility found

A GENE more common in men with a shortage of healthy sperm points to a new way to treat some forms of male infertility.

Mohamed Benahmed and colleagues at the University of Lyon in France have discovered that a gene variant that increases production of a protein called tumour necrosis factor- is more common in men with a low sperm count or in men whose sperm lack healthy movement.

The team reckons TNF- lowers sperm count by boosting levels of a hormone that stimulates sperm production only when its levels fall. TNF- may also spark production of substances that damage existing sperm. Drugs that block TNF- may treat these types of infertility.


Saturday, August 22, 2009


Breakthrough offers hope of finding cure for male infertility

[Dr. Karim Nayernia]

Scientists have created human sperm in the laboratory for the first time. The extraordinary development, which until a few years ago belonged in the realms of science fiction, raises hopes that infertile men may one day be able to father their own biological children.

The sperm were created in a test tube, from stem cells derived from a five-day-old male embryo. The advance raises ethical questions over the safety of the procedure and the threat it poses to the future role of men. It was also challenged by experts who

claimed the sperm-like cells produced in the experiment were not genuine sperm.

If the finding is confirmed, a single male embryo could, in theory, yield a stem-cell line which when stored could provide an unlimited supply of sperm. Once the stem-cell line was established, there would be no further reproductive need for men. In a briefing on the research, the scientists at Newcastle University and the NorthEast England Stem Cell Institute, led by Professor Karim Nayernia, raise the question of whether their discovery means "the end of men".

They point out that the stem cells from which the sperm were made could only be derived from a male embryo – one containing a Y (male) chromosome – so at least one male would be required.
"However, researchers believe that the issue does need to be debated and legislated for," they said. "As work progresses and results improve at Newcastle and elsewhere it may, in theory, be possible to develop sperm from embryonic stem cell lines which have been stored."

Professor Nayernia said:"In theory it would be possible [to dispense with men], but only if you want to produce a population all the same size and shape [because they have the same male genetic origin]. Personally I cannot see human reproduction as purely a biological process. It has human, emotional, psychological, social and ethical aspects, too. We are doing this research to help infertile men, not to replace a reproductive procedure."

The breakthrough was achieved using stem cells derived from a human embryo which were first developed into germ line stem cells – with half the number of chromosomes – and then prompted to produce sperm which were "fully mature and functional", despite being made in a petri dish rather than the testes of a sexually mature man. The results are reported in the journal Stem Cells and Development.

In a parallel but incomplete experiment, the same group of researchers are creating stem cells out of skin cells from which they have produced sperm, with the same genetic make-up as the skin cells from which they are derived.This would allow infertile men to produce their own biological children, using only their skin cells. Professor Nayernia said the results of this research were "promising" and added: "We hope in a few months to publish that work as well."

However, efforts to produce sperm from female stem cells failed. It had been thought the technique might allow lesbian couples to have their own biological children but the researchers say the genes on the Y (male) chromosome are essential to sperm maturation.
Three years ago, Professor Nayernia led scientists at the University of Gottingen in Germany who became the first to produce viable sperm from mouse embryonic stem cells which were used to produce seven live offspring. However, the baby mice died shortly after birth.

The latest discovery is a further step on the way to finding a cure for male infertility. Under current legislation, researchers are banned from using sperm (or eggs) produced in the laboratory – known as in-vitro derived (IVD) sperm – to treat patients. But it is permitted for research purposes.
"Sperm production takes 15 years in a human and there are thousands of factors that could affect it," said Professor Nayernia. "We can investigate these factors in the laboratory in a matter of months with this technique."
Experts yesterday challenged the Newcastle researchers' claims to have created genuine sperm.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: "As a sperm biologist of 20 years' experience, I am unconvinced from the data presented in this paper that the cells produced ... can be accurately called 'Spermatozoa'."

Azim Surani, a professor of physiology and reproduction at the University of Cambridge, said: "These sperm-like cells made in a dish from embryonic stem cells are a long way from being authentic sperm cells." Professor Robin Lovell Badge, from the National Institute for Medical Research, echoed the academic criticisms, but said: "Despite these drawbacks, it may be that the authors have made some progress in obtaining sperm from human embryonic stem cells in vitro.
"This will be very important for research and ultimately, although definitely not yet, for fertility treatments."

Professor Nayernia said his research was submitted as "proof of principle" which needed confirmation by further studies. "Our intention was to open up new avenues of research," he said. "It seems unreasonable to criticise our work on the basis that we have not done more."

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which regulates research, has estimated that it will be at least five or 10 years before eggs of sperm could be produced which could potentially be used in treatment.
Before laboratory-produced sperm could be used to make babies for couples who are infertile, the 2008 Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act would have to be changed.

Sperm: The facts
* It takes 10 weeks to make a sperm in the testes.
* Once produced they are stored for about a fortnight.
* If they are not ejaculated they are broken down and reabsorbed.
* A healthy male can produce 70 to 150 million sperm a day.
* A teaspoon can hold 200 to 500 million sperm.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Foods that will increase the quality and quantity of sperm

Although there is no scientific evidence to prove any of the following claims that are believed to improve the taste of your semen, they are nevertheless widely believed among drinkers and squirters alike.Believe it or not, many of the things that affect body odor are believed to affect the taste of semen as well.

For instance, alcohol and coffee are believed to give semen a bitter, pungent taste. There are many ingredients composing semen, and its makeup is the same from man to man. Here are a few of the constituent elements: vitamin C, calcium, chlorine, cholesterol, citric acid, creatine, fructose, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, vitamin B12, and zinc. So what effect will all this have on her waistline? Well, not much of an effect at all. The caloric content of the average ejaculate is estimated to be approximately 5 to 25 calories -- hardly the most fattening meal.

As well, cigarettes, garlic, onions, broccoli, and cauliflower are also believed to alter the taste of your love juice. The cigarettes need no explanation; you're inhaling fire, let's get real. But because the aforementioned foods tend to have a distinct odor, it's believed that they will affect the way you taste.

If you're dehydrated, pig out on spicy foods or are taking medication, these factors may also contribute to an uninviting flavor. So maybe you should take it easy on Mexican delights and start downing water like there's no tomorrow.

What To Eat/Drink:

Plums Oranges Lemons Limes Cilantro Spearmint Grapefruit Green tea Beer Pineapple Mangoes Chamomile tea

What To Avoid:

Broccoli Brussels Sprouts Spices Coffee Chocolate Cigarettes Asparagus Chemically processed liquor Onions Garlic Dairy Products Red meat Considering most guys are avid meat eaters, keep in mind that red meat apparently makes semen taste more acidic. Hmm, nothing like the taste of acid to end off a wonderful night of sexual fun.To sweeten up your inner load, drink plenty of pineapple juice, and eat bananas and papaya. Their sweetness results in yours. And of course, lest we forget that parsley can do wonders for men worldwide -- it eliminates body odor, freshens breath and improves the taste of seminal fluid. Fruits like kiwi, watermelon, celery, and pineapple are all said to make semen taste lighter. Beer and coffee are believed to have something of an opposite effect, and could leave her with a bitter taste in the mouth. Alkaline-based foods like meat and fish produce a buttery taste, while acidic fruits (cranberries, blueberries and plums) produce a pleasant, sugary flavor. Most liqueurs will do the same, while dairy products can make for a foul taste because of their high bacterial putrefaction levels. Always keep in mind that everyone has a distinct taste and even if you do all these things, she might still find the taste of your fluid repulsive. But if she's more than willing and able to sacrifice for the greater good, then have her down a mint before she makes her way down south.The mint will serve to hinder the flavor of your semen and will simultaneously provide you with indescribable sensations.

A lot of guys would love it if they could make like one of the characters in Scary Movie and ejaculate so much that they plaster their girlfriends against the ceiling. And although that won't likely be happening anytime soon, it's believed that wheat germ increases seminal output. Bon app├ętit.

Amino acids, if taken regularly, are generally believed to increase ejaculate fluid. On the other hand, zinc seems to improve both the amount of sperm produced as well as the sperm's ability to move spontaneously and independently. Together with amino acids, this will increase normal sperm count and volume significantly. Amino acids are believed to increase ejaculate fluid (not the amount of actual sperm necessarily) if taken regularly. Some amino acids include:L-ARGININE HCLStudies show sperm and semen volume doubles, fertility improves (even among men with low sperm counts or poor sperm motility), and sperm health and activity increase with supplementation.
Arginine is found in high concentrations in nuts and seeds like peanuts and almonds. It can also be found in chocolate and raisins. Some Natural Sources: Nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chocolate, popcorn, raisins, brown rice, carob, gelatin desserts, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and protein rich foods.

L-LYSINEResearchers find that this amino acids plus zinc increases sperm produced, stimulates testosterone production, and improves semen quality.EPIMEDIUM SAGITTATUMSometimes called "horny goat weed," this botanical boosts libido and testosterone levels for greater sperm production for a strong ejaculation.
ZINC OXIDEHas been shown to increase number of sperm and sperm motility by 80% to 200% by aiding testosterone synthesis.

L-CARNITINE. This amino acid is found in high concentrations in healthy sperm. Proven to significantly increase the percentage of highly motile sperm.

CATUABA BARKBrazilian herb that strengthens the libido, and nourishes the entire male reproductive system.

PUMPKIN SEED supports prostate health and hormonal production. While they may not readily increase sperm volume, they do enhance prostate health and testosterone production.

MACALegendary South American botanical proven to promote libido, potency and energy.Ginseng Yohimbe barkVitamin C, EMagnesium

Zinc has been shown to improve both the amount of sperm you produce and the sperm's ability to move spontaneously and independently. Coupled with amino acids (see above), this will increase sperm volume significantly.(Butter's note: Not as miraculous as they make it sound, but regular zinc intake (50mgs a day) does increase quantity somewhat.)Whatever a pill company's claims are, you can probably do just as well with zinc and lecithin supplements. (Use zinc supplements in moderation; too much zinc intake can be dangerous.) For some guys, these nutrients do have a noticeable effect on ejaculation volume, and they're a lot cheaper and easier to get.
In general, stay away from mail-order pills sold by less-than-reputable companies; you really don't know what's in them, and their claims are almost always untrue or at least greatly exaggerated.

PC Exercises:While Kegel exercises can help you last longer, they can also aid in increasing sperm volume. There are a host of exercises you can do to keep your penis in great shape and shoot like a champion.

Frequency of sexual activity also contributes to volume -- although only to a certain degree. If you abstain for a day or two, you'll certainly produce more sperm than you would ejaculating every few hours. But any longer than this one- to two-day timeframe, and you won't see much of a difference, as semen reservoirs will have stopped building up a supply.

Consistency of semen isn't very consistent; you've probably noticed that the thickness of your ejaculate can vary from day to day. This is because the quality of the fluid is very susceptible to a number of factors. Diet, exercise and frequency of sex can all dictate how thick or watery your emissions are, as can the tightness of the clothes that you wear (tight clothing will increase body temperature and can thus impact sperm motility.
While there is a lack of supporting scientific evidence, a number of ingredients are said to help thicken up semen. Because of their protein content, egg whites and gelatin are often recommended. Wheat germ, omega-3 oils, selenium, and zinc are all also believed to improve consistency.

A healthy balance of nutrients is important for maintaining vascular health as well, which improves your ability to achieve and maintain erections. There isn't a need to go popping extra vitamins if you are already eating a diet rich in nutrients, particulary from fruits and vegetables. Essential fatty acids are found in certain kinds of fish (like salmon) and nuts.Celery is one of food products known to have great properties for sexual stimulation. It contains androsterone, an odor free hormone which is very inviting for women. Raw celery is the best way to increase that desire. Oysters are rich in zinc and are know to increase sperm and testosterone production. It contains dopamine which increases the sexual desire. Bananas, Avocado and Almond or other nuts are some of the other food products which help in this matter.

Eat Nutritious Food - Diet that's low in fat, and high in protein, vegetables, and whole grains is good for your health and for your sperm. Avoid bitter, astringent and spicy foods.Reduce caffeine intake. Avoid heating of testicles - Wear loose, cotton boxer shorts, Avoid hot baths and saunas.

Lose any excess weight, which tends to cause testosterone/oestrogen imbalances. Reduce stress levels by learning relaxation techniques - Keep your mind and body healthy by regular practice of YOGA and MEDITATION.

Massage body with herbal oil, which improves blood circulation.

Try supplements - Certain natural supplements promise to increase sperm production.

Make love in the early morning or afternoon. Sperm levels are often highest in the mornings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

EMD Serono launches male fertility education campaign

EMD Serono is partnering with Men's Health Network on a patient education campaign aimed at raising awareness of male infertility.The effort, dubbed “In The Know: What No One Tells You About Male Fertility,” is launching this week, which is Men's Health Week. The campaign features a 20-page booklet written in conjunction with the Society for the Study of Male Reproduction, a website ( and a PR campaign by Baer Consulting. It's being supported by a satellite media tour, and aimed at reaching couples through health titles and local news outlets. is EMD Serono's fertility awareness site, and includes branding for Gonal-f, a hormone treatment indicated for both male and female infertility. Patients can get the booklet by registering at the site or by calling a toll-free number. EMD Serono reps are distributing copies to reproductive endocrinologists, and the company is promoting it online through search engine optimization and banner ads. As part of the effort, EMD Serono and Men's Health Network are touting a survey finding that 45% of men say they would wait a year or more to seek treatment for an infertility problem. Men are much less likely to present than women, said EVP, endocrinology David Stern, and for women in their late 30s and older, time is critical."Some of this is embarassment," said Stern. "It's important to talk about it. It's not something that makes you less manly. It's common and can be treated."About one in eight couples – around 7.3 million Americans -- has trouble conceiving, the company said, and half of those cases have to do with male fertility issues – often easily treatable ones. The campaign grew out of an earlier “girlfriend-to-girlfriend” effort, aimed at women and based on research conducted with Conceive Magazine, that launched last year.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning a few years ago that pregnant women taking the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant paroxetine risk giving birth to infants with major birth defects, including heart abnormalities.

Now comes word that the same drug (sold as Paxil, Paxil CR, Seroxat, Pexeva, and generic paroxetine hydrochloride) carries another danger that could keep babies from being born in the first place. A new study just published in the online edition of the journal Fertility and Sterility concludes as many as fifty percent of all men taking the antidepressant could have damaged sperm and compromised fertility.

New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medical Center researchers followed 35 healthy male volunteers who took paroxetine for five weeks. Then sperm samples from the men were studied using an assay called terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) to evaluate whether there were missing pieces of genetic code in the sperm DNA.
This condition, known as DNA fragmentation, is associated with reproductive problems.The results? The percentage of men with abnormal DNA fragmentation soared from less than 10 percent to 50 percent while taking the antidepressant. This is a crucial finding because DNA fragmentation has long been known to correlate with an increased risk of birth defects, poor fertility and unsuccessful pregnancy outcomes -- even when high tech, extraordinarily expensive fertility enhancing techniques such as in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection are used.

The study, one of the first scientific investigations into the effect of SSRIs on sperm quality, also confirmed that paroxetine impairs sexual function. More than a third of the research subjects reported significant changes in erectile function and about half had difficulty ejaculating.

"It's fairly well known that SSRI antidepressants negatively impact erectile function and ejaculation. This study goes one step further, demonstrating that they can cause a major increase in genetic damage to sperm," Dr. Peter Schlegel, the study's senior author and chairman of the Department of Urology and professor of reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, explained in a statement to the media.
"Although this study doesn't look directly at fertility, we can infer that as many as half of men taking SSRIs have a reduced ability to conceive. These men should talk with their physician about their treatment options, including non-SSRI depression medications."The scientists could not identify the exact way the SSRI caused the DNA fragmentation, but the evidence strongly suggests the drug slows sperm as it moves through the male reproductive tract from the testis to the ejaculatory ducts. When this happens, the sluggish sperm grows old and its DNA becomes damaged.

"This is a new concept for how drugs can affect fertility and sperm. In most cases, it was previously assumed that a drug damaged sperm production, so the concept that sperm transport could be affected is novel," Dr. Schlegel stated.The study contains some good news for men currently on Paxil and related drugs who may be concerned about their fertility. All the changes the researchers found appeared to be totally reversible. Specifically, normal levels of sexual function and DNA fragmentation both returned to normal one month after discontinuation of the drug.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Man fathers 'miracle' child using sperm frozen 22 years ago

A man who had his sperm frozen while suffering leukaemia as a teenager has fathered a child after doctors successfully thawed his sample a record 22 years later.

Chris Biblis was advised to have his sperm frozen before undergoing radiotherapy that would leave him sterile at age 16.
He survived the cancer and at age 38 has become the father of a healthy baby daughter, Stella.

She was conceived after scientists injected a defrosted sperm into an egg from Mr Biblis's wife, Melodie, and implanted it in her uterus.
The 22-year lapse between storage in April 1986 and conception in June 2008 is the longest on record, according to specialists at the US fertility clinic who carried out the procedure.

“From my life being saved to being able to create a life, words just can’t describe where we are now,” Mr Biblis, of Charlotte, North Carolina, told ABC news.

“I’ve got this bundle of joy to appreciate. It’s truly a miracle."
The case is being hailed as an illustration of how far infertility treatment has advanced in the past two decades. The previous record was 21 years.
"We believe this is a world record," said Bonnie Schwab of Vanguard Communications in Colorado, which represents the Charlotte doctors.
Even the thought of freezing sperm was unusual in the 1980s, said Dr. Richard Wing, the Biblises' doctor and founder of the Charlotte fertility clinic.

The couple have five frozen embryos and some of Chris Biblis' remaining frozen sperm in the bank if they want to have more children.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Gene discovery may lead to male contraceptive

There is hope on the horizon for infertile men with news of the discovery of gene mutations linked to male infertility possibly leading to a male contraceptive - and new fertility treatments.

WebMD is reporting the mutations discovered make it hard for a gene to make a protein essential for normal sperm movement, possibly inhibiting male fertility.

The gene, called CATSPER1, may well prove a productive avenue for male infertility solutions – while blocking the gene could possibly be a way of creating a male contraceptive say the researchers.

However, don’t hold your breath for a male birth control pill any time soon say the researchers, who published their results in the American Journal of Human Genetics.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ron Duncan: Are endocrine disruptors reducing human sperm count, killing off the species?

"You have to read this," my brother said. "It shows how the human race is dying out." Dubious, I opened the book that he offered me and stared incredulously at a little-known statistic stating that "average male sperm counts dropped by almost fifty percent between 1938 and 1990." The book was entitled "Our Stolen Future" and was my first introduction to class of chemical compounds known as "endocrine disruptors" and the effect that they are having on our fertility and the fertility of many species across the globe.

The discovery that human sperm counts had been steadily dropping occurred in 1992, when the results of Danish researcher Dr. Niels Skakkebaek's meta-analysis on male fertility was published in the British Medical Journal. Analyzing the findings of every study on sperm count that had occurred since 1930, Dr. Skakkebaek uncovered this surprising trend when he realized the combined evidence of all these studies pointed to an average decline in male sperm count by 1 percent per year. In the aftermath of the publication of these results, countries across the globe tested the sperm counts of their male populations only to find, in many cases, confirmation of Dr. Skakkebaek's conclusions. In the most recent of such studies published last year, Italian researchers at the University of Pisa discovered that the number of active sperm in Italian men has dropped by more than 15 percent in the last 30 years.

Puzzled, scientists were at a loss to account for the trend, until further investigation indicated the decline in fertility rates to be geographically dependent, and thus tied to environmental factors.

Fortunately for Americans, several studies in the mid-1990s revealed sperm counts of American males in New York, L.A. and Minnesota to be increasing, while those of their European counterparts were moving in the opposite direction.

When alarming data on animal infertility emerged that coincided with the human trend, scientists began to look to endocrine disruptors as the likely culprit.

Endocrine disruptors are so-named because they disrupt our endocrine system, a system that produces and regulates our hormones, controlling our body's growth, metabolism, and sexual function and development. Endocrine disruptors act as synthetic hormones, throwing off our hormone levels by mimicking or blocking the natural hormones in our bodies. Although most research has focused on endocrine disruptors that imitate the female sex hormone estrogen, others are found to simulate testosterone, our metabolic hormones and more.

The adverse effects that endocrine disruptors can have on human fertility first came to light in the 1970s as a result of the scandal surrounding the pregnancy drug diethylstilbestrol, or DES. In 1938, when scientists discovered that the body mistook DES for the hormone estrogen, it was hailed as the new wonder drug. Believing the more estrogen the better, doctors throughout the country in the 1940s, '50s and '60s began prescribing DES to their pregnant patients to prevent miscarriages and other pregnancy complications.

Ironically, DES had the opposite effect, as women who had taken DES during pregnancy were more likely to miscarry, have premature children or have babies who died during infancy. However, it was not until the late 1960s and the early 1970s, when a rash of young women began dying of a hitherto rare form of clear-cell vaginal cancer, that the true danger of DES was exposed. It turns out that these young women, most in their late teens and early twenties, all had one thing in common: their mothers had taken DES during pregnancy at a critical time for their development. Other female "DES babies" were found to have fertility problems, including misshaped sexual organs. In males exposed to DES in the womb, the consequences, though not as clear-cut, have been revealed by some studies to include higher rates of underdeveloped testes, stunted penises, undescended testicles, and abnormal sperm.

While doctors no longer prescribe DES, the disturbing truth is that all of us, including, of course, pregnant women, continue to be exposed to endocrine disruptors in our environment, and to ingest them in our food and water. Plasticizers such as bisphenol-A or BPA, found in plastics labeled with the number 7; pesticides, including DDT; and chemicals such as PCBs, formerly used in coolants, lubricants, paints and sealants, are among the endocrine disruptors present in our environment that mimic estrogen in the human body.
These compounds are so pervasive that they have been found in varying levels throughout the world, with high concentrations discovered in seals, polar bears and other marine life currently experiencing fertility problems in areas as remote as Svalbard in the Arctic Circle.

In other words, not only are these substances pervasive, spreading easily across the globe, but they are long-lasting, the evidence being that DDT and PCBs were outlawed decades ago, but still persist in our environment, threatening our own health and the health of other species. Moreover, the number and variety of endocrine disruptors in our environment is unknown since the FDA and other government regulatory agencies to do not test the more than 2,000 chemicals that come on to the market each year to determine if they are endocrine disruptors before releasing them upon the unsuspecting public.

Those at greatest risk to the potential ill effects of endocrine disruptors are fetuses and newborn babies because of the important role that hormones play in development. A prime example is the function of hormones in sexual development. All babies, regardless of whether they have XX chromosomes girls or XY chromosomes boys do not begin to develop their gender until around the seventh week of life for males or the third or fourth month females. Until the time of that important transformation, every fetus is equipped with a pair of unisex gonads that have the potential to transform into either the male or female sexual organs. For boy babies, at the seventh week, the Y chromosome signals the development of the unisex gonads into testes and the rest of the process of gender development is directed by the male hormones produced by those organs. For females, the third or fourth month is when the male-potential Wolffian ducts whither and disappear and, as time goes on, estrogen helps guide the proper development of the ovaries. Things can go wrong if hormone levels are off. For example, male babies that don't receive a strong dose of testosterone at the right time will become hermaphrodites or their testicles will not descend.

Because proper sexual development, particularly in males, is reliant on receiving the correct levels of hormones at a precise moment, many scientists are concerned about the impact of fetal exposure to hormone mimicking elevated hormone levels or blocking lowered hormone levels endocrine disruptors. It has been found that even small doses of synthetic hormones can have serious and lasting consequences. As a result, it is recommended that pregnant women in particular limit their exposure to these harmful substances as much as possible.

Here are some tips for avoiding endocrine disruptors:

* Eat organic food and consume most of your protein from vegetable sources. Because endocrine disruptors "bioaccumulate" in animals, eating animal fat including fish can expose you to higher doses of these chemicals.

* Avoid foods that have been exposed to plastics and don't cook your food in plastic containers, which can leach plasticizers into foods when heated.

*Avoid drinking from plastic water bottles, especially those labeled with the number 7 use stainless steel instead, and limit consumption of canned foods. There is a plastic coating inside can products that reduces metallic taste, but has been shown to leach plasticizers into food.

* Never feed your baby using a plastic bottle, many are plastic No. 7, which contains BPA; always opt for glass bottles.

* Install a filter on your taps and showerhead to strain out pesticides and other chemical compounds from your water.

* Avoid dioxin also an endocrine disruptor by limiting exposure to smoke, animal fats and chlorinated products.

* Limit exposure to chemicals in general.

So, is the human race dying out? The good news is, not yet. Look around; we have 6.7 billion people in the world! Even with the reduced male sperm count, men still have a sufficient amount, on average, of fully functional sperm for fertility. An adequate sperm density is considered to be around 20 million per milliliter, and even those Italians in the study cited above had a density of 60 million per milliliter.

However, the statistics surrounding fertility and the effects of endocrine disruptors should serve as a warning signal. If we don't take serious action to combat the problem, my brother may end up being proved right.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Men Must Contend With a Biological Clock, Too

Older males face higher risk of fathering children with medical problems, research finds

It wasn't all that long ago that any suggestion that a man had a "biological clock" like a woman, and should father children sooner rather than later, would have been given short scientific shrift.

Not anymore. Today, a growing body of evidence suggests that as men get older, fertility can and does decline, while the chances of fathering a child with serious birth defects and medical problems increase.
Some studies have linked higher rates of serious health problems such as autism and schizophrenia in children born to men as young as their mid-40s.

And doctors and researchers are busy trying to figure out how men who choose to delay fatherhood -- either by choice or necessity, such as a lack of a partner -- can offset the effects of their biological clocks as those clocks wind down.

Interestingly, problems with reduced fertility can start long before middle age, said Dr. Harry Fisch, one of the pioneers in the field in male fertility and director of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons' Male Reproductive Center, in New York City.

"We know after age 30, testosterone levels decline about 1 percent per year," said Fisch, author of the book The Male Biological Clock.
Research done at the University of Washington has found that "as men age, DNA damage occurs to their sperm," said Dr. Narendra P. Singh, a research associate professor in the department of bioengineering, who co-authored a study on the subject.

Several other studies point to problems in the offspring of older fathers, as well as older men experiencing fertility problems.
For instance, Fisch and his colleagues found that if a woman and a man were both older than age 35 at the time of conception, the father's age played a significant role in the prevalence of Down syndrome. And this effect was most detectable if the woman was 40 or older -- the incidence of Down syndrome was about 50 percent attributable to the sperm.
Other researchers have found that children born to fathers 45 or older are more likely to have poor social skills, and that children born to men 55 and older are more likely to have bipolar disorder than those born to men 20 to 24 years of age at the time of conception.

On other fronts, researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City found that children of men aged 40 or older were about six times more likely to have autism. Still another study found that the children of fathers who were 50 or older when they were born were almost three times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Fisch is now focusing much of his attention on encouraging men to assess if their biological clock is ticking faster than it should. For instance, men who are overweight or obese tend to have more fertility problems than healthier men.

"It turns out that if you are too heavy, you have a lower sperm count," he said, adding that excess body fat causes testosterone levels to decline. The good news: Losing weight helps them return to normal.
Singh advises older men who want to become fathers to pay attention to lifestyle issues and practice healthy habits that will, in turn, keep their sperm healthy. That particularly means no smoking and no overuse of alcohol, he said.

Both Fisch and Singh said they don't think there's a "cutoff" point for fatherhood. And they said it's difficult to pinpoint the "ideal" age to father a child, especially since many couples today are marrying later and delaying starting a family.
But Fisch did say, "The sooner, the better."


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Drinking pomegranate juice may improve male fertility

A new study has shown that drinking pomegranate juice regularly may improve sperm health.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Turkey’s Firat University and published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, examined 28 male Wistar rats to see if the so-called ‘superfood’ would help their fertility reports health website NaturalNews.

The rats were divided into four groups and given either 1ml of water, 0.75ml of water mixed with 0.25ml of pomegranate juice, 0.5ml of each or 1ml of pomegranate juice once a day over a seven-week period, after which the researchers tested the rats’ sperm.

Results were positive: compared to those drinking water only, the rats drinking the concentrated pomegranate juice showed a 48.5% reduction in their blood levels of a reactive chemical called malondialdehyde (MDA) that can damage sperm production.

Even more encouragingly, they also showed a 63.5% decrease in the levels of MDA in their sperm.
Researchers found the rats that drank the concentrated pomegranate juice had “increased spermatogenic cell density, epididymal sperm concentration, sperm motility and decreased abnormal sperm rate”.However, they noted it was only the concentrated juice, and not the diluted versions, that made a positive difference.
This isn’t the first study to show the potential health benefits pomegranate juice offers for men.

In 2007, a study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research reported some success in using pomegranate juice as a way of managing erectile dysfunction.
A three-year UCLA study also found a daily dose of pomegranate juice helps stabilise prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in prostate cancer sufferers.


Monday, January 19, 2009

New evidence that river pollution could be causing male fertility problems

Testosterone-blocking chemicals have been found in UK rivers for the first time in new research that strengthens the link between water pollution and rising male fertility problems.

Anti-androgens, that are found in a number of medicines including cancer treatments and pesticides used in agriculture, were found in 30 rivers across England.
The group of chemicals can block the male hormone and therefore reduce male fertility.

Scientists found male fish are already being affected and warned that it could also be contributing to a reduction in human sperm counts, that have been falling in the last fifty years.
In the past the contraceptive pill has been blamed for "feminising" male fish but levels would have to be extremely high to affect humans.
However anti-androgens have been proven to affect humans in small measures and provide a much stronger link between river pollution and male fertility.

The three year study by Brunel University, the Universities of Exeter and Reading and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology looked at more than 1,000 fish in rivers across the UK.
Previous studies have already shown that the female sex hormone oestrogen is causing the feminisation of fish and in some cases can lead to male fish changing sex.

The chemical, found in the contraceptive pill and some industrial chemicals, enters rivers via sewage works.
The new study shows that anti-androgens are also causing male fertility problems in a "double whammy" for the fish.

Senior author Professor Charles Tyler of the University of Exeter said the study showed that a much wider range of chemicals than previously thought could be affecting male wildlife and human health.
"Our research shows that a much wider range of chemicals than we previously thought is leading to hormone disruption in fish.
This means that the pollutants causing these problems are likely to be coming from a wide variety of sources.
Our findings also strengthen the argument for the cocktail of chemicals in our water leading to hormone disruption in fish, and contributing to the rise in male reproductive problems.
There are likely to be many reasons behind the rise in male fertility problems in humans, but these findings could reveal one, previously unknown, factor."

Prof Tyler said there was a lack of evidence to prove a small amount of oestrogen found in river water could affect human fertility, however studies on rats and mice have shown a small amount of anti-androgens can affect male fertility in mammals.

"There is good evidence for more problems in male reproductivty in human males in the last fifty or sixty years," he said. "The anti-androgens are possibly a contributing factor."
The study will now concentrate on where the anti-androgens are coming from and the affect on human health.

Lead author on the research paper Dr Susan Jobling at Brunel University's Institute for the Environment, said the group would be working with regulators like the Environment Agency to consider whether levels of the pollutant need to be controlled in order to protect health.

She said: "We have identified a new group of chemicals in our study on fish, but do not know where they are coming from. A principal aim of our work is now to identify the source of these pollutants and work with regulators and relevant industry to test the effects of a mixture of these chemicals and the already known environmental estrogens and help protect environmental health."


Friday, January 9, 2009

Vietnam has made significant progress in infertility treatment

Right: Luu Ngoc Mai, the first ever baby in Vietnam born from fertilsation with cultured spermatids at the Hanoi-based Military Hospital's Embryo Technology Center and Doctor Quan Huang Lam, head of the center.

Recent achievements in infertility treatment in
Vietnam have not only given fresh hope to childless couples, but also earned the country international recognition, according to local experts.

In the last week of December, the Hanoi-based Military Hospital’s Embryo Technology Center announced its success in culturing spermatids, saying that a baby had been born and six were expected to be born this year using the method.

Although the success rate now stands at 10 percent, it is notable that Vietnam is the first country in Asia to succeed in developing the technique, Vietnam News recently quoted Quan Hoang Lam - head of the center as saying.

Initiated by Doctor Tesarik J. from Turkey in 2001, the new technique helps men who cannot produce sperms.
Men can have their spermatids – the cells that become spermatozoon (sperms) – grown into sperms in culture medium within 24 hours and then injected into their wives’ ovum for fertilization.

Leading IVM nation
“Vietnam is one of the five countries, including Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Italy, which are leading in developing in vitro maturation (IVM),” Ho Chi Minh City Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Association (HOSREM) General Secretary Dr. Ho Manh Tuong told Lao Dong in a recent interview.

Since the first IVM baby was born in 2007, it is estimated that Vietnam has introduced 4 to 5 percent of some 500 IVM babies that are delivered internationally, he says.

“The number of IVM babies in Vietnam has increased sharply thanks to the rather high success rate,” Tuong adds.
According to HORSEM statistics, around 50 pregnancies so far have been achieved using IVM, including more than 10 cases of twins.
Following the success of the Vietnamese program, local scientists and experts have been invited to report their IVM application at international conferences, including the first European IVM meeting held in Monza, Italy, last month, Tuong says.

The association has also been invited to take part in a multi-center study on IVM babies in the world headed by Professor R. Cheng Chian and Professor Seang Lintan of McGill University in Montreal, Canada, he says.
During IVM, immature eggs, or oocytes, are retrieved from the ovary, then matured in the laboratory before being fertilized and implanted in the womb.

The method almost halves the cost of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and has a shorter time of 10 days instead of four weeks.
Moreover, it does not imply a potentially fatal side-effect of injections given to stimulate egg production prior to retrieval, like the IVF. The side-effect, which is very rare, is known as the Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.

While new achievements are being recorded and newer techniques applied, Vietnam already has a solid base in IVF development, experts say.

The country marked its first achievement in infertility treatment when three babies were born in 1998 using the IVF technology.
Over the past 10 years, 10 IVF centers have been established nationwide and these have introduced nearly 5,000 IVF babies in Vietnam, Tuong told the Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper recently.

Since 2004, Vietnam has also conducted IVF courses for foreign students from countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Myanmar.
Source: Lao Dong, SGGP