DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) is a molecule which carries genetic information related to growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all living beings. DNA fragmentation is the separation or breaking up of DNA strands into pieces. About 50% of cases of infertility are linked to male infertility and DNA fragmentation may be one of the causes of male infertility.
Simply stating, it is the fragmentation or separation of DNA strands in the sperm. It is basically the amount of damage observed in sperm DNA. Sperm cells carry a huge amount of information within and it is important that the genetic material remains integrated for a successful pregnancy.
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DNA fragmentation is a measure of the abnormal genetic material carried within the sperm and it is observed that infertile men have a higher DNA fragmentation in their sperm cells as compared to others.
The main cause of DNA fragmentation is oxidative stress, which can be caused by:
As already mentioned, DNA fragmentation is higher in infertile men. Earlier, only semen parameters like sperm count, motility, etc. were calculated while evaluating infertility in men.
However, many men with normal sperm count, motility, etc. also turned out to be infertile. This forced the experts to look for other causes of infertility and DNA fragmentation turned out to be the factor.
It has been observed that DNA fragmentation is significantly higher in infertile men and men with poor semen parameters are more likely to have high sperm DNA fragmentation. However, men with totally normal parameters can also have a high DNA fragmentation making them infertile.
Moreover, it has also been found that DNA fragmentation poorly affects embryo development. DNA fragmentation affects blastocyst development and gene mutation, leading to miscarriages, abnormalities in offspring, etc.
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There are various DNA fragmentation tests available which can help in determining the extent of DNA fragmentation in the sperm cells. Men with infertility problems are advised to get a DNA fragmentation test done. The treatment depends on the cause of fragmentation.
If it is due to free radical damage only, a change in diet and lifestyle can help in reversing the conditions to a significant extent. Your fertility specialist may also refer to other fertility treatment options like varicocele repair if needed.
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