Sperm DNA fragmentation

Sperm DNA fragmentation refers to the degree of abnormal genetic material (DNA) within sperm. High levels of damaged or degraded sperm DNA can contribute to male infertility, IVF failure, and miscarriage. Sperm DNA fragmentation can be caused by a number of factors including illness, injury, and lifestyle choices that cause oxidative stress.

What is sperm DNA fragmentation?

Sperm DNA fragmentation is defined as abnormal or damaged genetic material within sperm. High levels of sperm DNA fragmentation can contribute to male infertility, miscarriage, and in vitro fertilization (IVF) failure. While a semen analysis (SA) can help detect sperm morphology, concentration, and motility, it is not effective at highlighting sperm DNA fragmentation — a separate advanced analysis is required.

Sperm DNA fragmentation can be caused by a number of factors, including chronic diseases, lifestyle choices, and infections. Sperm DNA fragmentation can occur when the body lacks the ability to repair DNA that is broken, or when there is a deficiency of the protein that binds DNA in a compact form. 

Sperm DNA fragmentation in male fertility

Sperm DNA fragmentation is  one of many factors in male fertility. Those with high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation are more likely to be infertile. Furthermore, sperm DNA fragmentation affects the development of blastocysts and increases the chances of a miscarriage or IVF failure. Even patients with healthy sperm count can have high levels of sperm DNA fragmentation.

Causes of sperm DNA fragmentation

A number of different factors can cause sperm DNA fragmentation. Many cases are related to oxidative stress, which can be caused by unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking or by exposure to radiation or toxins. Those with a protein deficiency can experience sperm DNA fragmentation, as they don’t have a sufficient amount of protein to bind DNA together within the sperm. Other causes include varicoceles, infections, and chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Treatment of sperm DNA fragmentation

New sperm is created every single day, and the entire sperm supply is typically replenished within 64 days. As a result, making healthier lifestyle choices such as reducing smoking and drinking can have a positive impact on sperm DNA fragmentation. If the sperm DNA fragmentation is being caused by an infection, varicocele, a protein imbalance, or a chronic illness, a fertility urologist can be consulted for further treatment. 

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