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Sperm DNA Integrity Assessment: A New Tool in Diagnosis and Treatment of Fertility

DOI: 10.1155/2012/531042

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Infertility affects 15% of all couples. Although male infertility factors with reduced semen quality are contributing to about half of all involuntary childlessness, the value of standard semen parameters in prediction of fertility in vivo and choice of proper method for assisted reproduction is limited. In the search for better markers of male fertility, during the last 10 years, assessment of sperm DNA integrity has emerged as a strong new biomarker of semen quality that may have the potential to discriminate between infertile and fertile men. Sperm DNA Fragmentation Index (DFI) as assessed by the flow cytometric Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) can be used for evaluation of sperm chromatin integrity. The biological background for abnormal DFI is not completely known, but clinical data show that DFI above 30% is associated with very low chance for achieving pregnancy in natural way or by insemination, but not in vitro. Already when the DFI is above 20%, the chance of natural pregnancy may be reduced, despite other sperm parameters being normal. Thus this method may explain a significant proportion of cases of unexplained infertility and can be beneficial in counselling involuntary childless couples need of in vitro fertilisation. 1. Introduction In western countries up to one-forth of couples in reproductive age are seeking medical help for involuntary childlessness [1]. Despite the significant developments in the area of fertility seen during the last decades about one-third of these couples will be undiagnosed without any explanation to their problems. Although, the traditional semen parameters concentration, motility, and morphology are a golden standard in diagnosing of male infertility it has become apparent that none of these parameters recommended by the Word Health Organization (WHO) [2] are sufficient for the prediction of male fertility capacity. As the WHO parameters only address few aspects of sperm quality and function the discriminative power in relation to fertility is quite low [3, 4]. As a result, there has for long been searched for better markers of male fertility. During the last decades the use of assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) has increased substantially [1, 5]. In particular intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used to an increasing degree. While in the beginning of the era of ICSI the indication for treatment was severe male factor infertility, now also couples with normal sperm quality request are treated with ICSI. However, IVF and ICSI are symptomatic treatments where only 25–30% of the treatments result

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