Faulty sperm a marker for repeat miscarriages
Sperm appears to play a role in repeat miscarriages, as elevated levels of semen reactive oxygen species (ROS), elevated sperm DNA fragmentation, and a lower percentage of normal morphology were found in male partners of women with idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss* (RPL), according to data presented at ENDO 2019.
The serum levels of reproductive hormones and sperm quality of male partners of women with RPL (n=49) were compared with that of men whose partners had not experienced a miscarriage (n=34). Participants were instructed to complete a questionnaire for conditions impairing sperm quality (ie, testicular surgery, chronic use of medication, sexually transmitted infections, smoking, and alcohol intake). [ENDO 2019, abstract OR18-5]
Mean semen ROS levels were significantly higher in the RPL vs the control arm (9.3 vs 2.3 RLU**/sec/106 sperm; p<0.05). Mean levels of sperm DNA fragmentation index were also higher in the RPL vs the control arm (mean, 16.3 vs 7.4; p<0.0001).
The fraction of individuals with normal sperm morphology was significantly lower in the RPL vs the control arm (3.4 percent vs 4.5 percent; p<0.001), while the levels of serum morning testosterone were numerically lower in the RPL vs the control arm (mean testosterone in nmol/L, 15.8 vs 17.9; p>0.05).
While female factors in RPL are well known, the role of sperm function in RPL has been poorly understood, noted the researchers. These findings provide insight on potential issues in men that could contribute to RPL, they added.
“Affected women undergo many tests to determine the cause, but many cases have no identified cause,” said lead researcher Dr Channa Jayasena from the Imperial College London in London, UK in a press release. “Our study suggests that it may be useful to investigate if male partners of women with RPL have abnormalities in their reproductive function … [as] male partners of women with RPL do not routinely undergo assessment to [determine] if they play a role.”
Sperm plays a critical role in placental formation, which is critical for the survival of an unborn child, noted Jayasena. “[Therefore,] our data have important implications for the management of couples with RPL as male partners of women with RPL may benefit from routine assessment of reproductive endocrine and sperm function.”
The findings may also pave the way for the development of drugs that inhibit sperm DNA damage for the management of couples with RPL and to reduce the risk of miscarriage, said the researchers.