Researchers find a potential new way to diagnose and treat male infertility

It can take a year or longer of trial and error for a doctor to determine if a man is infertile. But new research by Michael Skinner, a Washington State University reproductive biologist, could change that.

Skinner and an international team of collaborators discovered infertile men have identifiable patterns of epigenetic molecules or biomarkers attached to their sperm DNA that aren’t present in fertile men.

The scientists also identified epigenetic biomarkers among infertile patients who responded to hormone therapy to treat their condition versus those who did not.

Their research could eventually provide doctors with a reliable method of screening men for infertility and figuring out which treatment options will work best for their patients. This could in turn save couples, where the man is incapable of having children naturally, the extended period of time it usually takes before a doctor will recommend they see a specialist for medically assisted reproduction.

Skinner and his collaborators published a study on their new diagnostic approach in Nature: Scientific Reports. “Male infertility is increasing worldwide and is recognized as playing a key role in reproductive health and disease,” Skinner said. “Having a diagnostic that tells you right away your male patient is infertile and here are the treatment options that will work for him would be immensely useful.”

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Dr. Martinez is ‘simply the best!’

A patient of ours talks about her experience with Dr. Alan Martinez:

“From the first visit on, we felt comfortable with him and felt like he truly cared about our wellbeing and the outcome. He was understanding, patient, compassionate and kind through my entire cycle with him. Today was my last visit with him and I’ve had mixed emotions because I wish he and the nurses could see this pregnancy all the way through. I’ve never felt more comfortable with a doctor than I have with Dr. Martinez. I would recommend Dr. Martinez to anyone that is going through this experience. He is simply the best!”

We thank her, and everyone who takes time to share their experience at RSCNJ, on our web site.

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Recurrent miscarriage linked to chromosomal abnormalities

When a couple loses a pregnancy, and especially when the same couple loses multiple pregnancies, doctors are often at a loss to explain why. For about 40 to 60 percent of couples with recurrent miscarriage (RM), the condition remains unexplained, even after costly testing. Chromosomal abnormalities — rearrangements of large chunks of DNA — in the genomes of one or both individuals trying to conceive are thought to be one of the major genetic causes of RM.

Routine chromosome analysis can currently detect these abnormalities in about 1 in 50 couples. A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Shandong University and The Chinese University of Hong Kong uses a special genetic sequencing technique known as low-pass genome sequencing (GS) to look for chromosomal abnormalities in couples with RM. Low-pass GS revealed additional chromosomal abnormalities in more couples than traditional testing, increasing detection to 1 in 9 couples.

The team’s findings were published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

“RM carries an underappreciated psychological and financial burden for affected couples. It’s often difficult to know how to treat or counsel couples when the cause of their infertility remains unknown,” said co-author Cynthia Morton, PhD, the director of cytogenetics at the Brigham. “There are couples who have chromosomal rearrangements that can’t be seen by classical methods. The technique we’ve used here increases the number of couples who we can detect who are at risk for having miscarriage.”

A technique known as pre-implantation genetic testing (PGT) can help couples with genetic abnormalities conceive through in vitro fertilization. Until now, it’s been unclear which patients with RM would benefit most from genetic testing of their embryos.

“Our results suggest that applying low-pass GS could help identify a larger subgroup of patients at increased risk of subsequent miscarriage who might take advantage of pre-implantation genetic testing,” said Morton.

To learn about our pre-implantation genetic diagnostic services, visit our web site.

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‘Complete faith and trust’ in RSCNJ

A patient of our had this to say about Dr. Alan Martinez and the care she received at RSCNJ:

“I could not say enough wonderful things about Dr. Martinez. He took time to make sure we understood everything every step of the way. He never pressured us or swayed us one way or another. He gave us straight facts and let us do what we felt was most comfortable. I felt Dr. Martinez couldn’t do enough for us. He always made himself available and even took time to call me with my results. I completely have faith and trust in him.”

We thank her, and everyone who takes time to share their experience at RSCNJ, on our web site.

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‘The doctors are all knowledgeable and compassionate’

A patient of ours writes:

“My two children would not be here without the wonderful doctors and staff at RSCNJ. I have been seen by all the doctors in this practice and they are all knowledgeable and compassionate. The staff is excellent—patient, skilled, and kind. I am so grateful for RSCNJ and the part they played in our family’s journey.”

We are grateful for her kind words. You can read more review like this on our web site.

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NY Times: ‘Male infertility—what to know and how to cope’

“Infertility is largely thought of as a woman’s issue, but male infertility can affect at least one-third of couples who are struggling to conceive,” The New York Times reported recently.

An article in their Parenting section states, “As with female infertility, male infertility isn’t anyone’s ‘fault.’ In the past three decades, according to a large study published in 2017, sperm counts have decreased significantly in industrialized nations such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and those in Europe. The most common cause of male infertility is low sperm count, but in more than 20 percent of cases, there’s no known cause.”

The article is worth a read. You can find it here.

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Is your fertility treatment covered by insurance?

One of the many benefits of being a patient of Reproductive Science Center of New Jersey is that we accept most health insurance plans.

In fact, we accept more than 20 insurance carriers here at RSCNJ.

To see which ones, visit our web site. When scheduling your appointment, please verify that your doctor accepts your insurance at the office location you plan to visit.

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Two children, thanks to RSCNJ

A patient of ours writes:

“My two children would not be here without the wonderful doctors and staff at RSCNJ. I have been seen by all the doctors in this practice and they are all knowledgeable and compassionate. The staff is excellent—patient, skilled and kind. I am so grateful for RSCNJ and the part they played in our family’s journey.”

Let us play a part in your family journey as well. See other testimonials like this on our website.

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A breakthrough in treating low testosterone?

Researchers at the University of Southern California have successfully grown human, testosterone-producing cells in the lab, paving the way to someday treat low testosterone with personalized replacement cells.

In the Proceedings from the National Academy of Sciences, scientists describe how they transformed stem cells into functioning Leydig cells—the cells in the testes that produce the male sex hormone.

“Our study provides a way to generate possible transplantation materials for clinical therapies, as well as a path toward testing and developing new drugs,” says Vassilios Papadopoulos, dean of the USC School of Pharmacy, who led the research.

Millions of men have low testosterone, or hypogonadism, which impacts mood, fertility, sexual function, obesity and bone density. And testosterone replacement therapy is a multibillion-dollar industry. Testosterone tapers off naturally with age but can also decrease suddenly due infections like mumps, or cancer treatment during childhood.

Testosterone replacement therapy—injected, taken orally or applied as a gel—reverses many of these symptoms. “You feel better, you lose weight, erectile function returns,” Papadopoulos says. “Men love testosterone.” However, treatment for “low T” is linked to side effects such as infertility, increased risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, topical treatments can rub off on close contacts, inadvertently exposing others to the drug. A transplant of lab-grown testosterone-producing cells, perhaps injected into fatty tissue, could potentially bypass those side effects, researchers say.

However, human transplantation of Leydig cells is at least “a few years away,” he says.

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Chlamydia affects men’s fertility too, research finds

The potential impact of undiagnosed sexually transmitted chlamydia infection on men’s fertility has been highlighted in a study led by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), which for the first time found chlamydia in the testicular tissue biopsies of infertile men whose infertility had no identified cause.

The researchers also found antibodies specific to the bacteria responsible, Chlamydia trachomatis, in the blood of 12 of 18 donors of the fresh testicular biopsies, indicating the men had been exposed to the bacteria, yet none of the men reported symptoms of infection or being previously diagnosed with chlamydia or any other sexually-transmitted infection.

The study, in collaboration with Monash IVF Group, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Monash Health and Queensland Fertility Group, has been published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Professor of Immunology Ken Beagley, from the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, notes that chlamydia infection in men has not been as widely studied as it has in women, despite similar infection rates.

“Chlamydia infection has been associated with women’s infertility but much less is known about its impact on male infertility, particularly if men do not experience symptoms, which is estimated to be in about 50 per cent of cases,” says Beagley, who led the research. “When people have no symptoms they can unknowingly pass on the infection to sexual partners. This is the first reported evidence of chlamydia infection in human testicular tissue, and while it can’t be said that chlamydia was the cause of the infertility of the men, it is a significant finding. It reveals a high rate of previously unrecognized chlamydia infection and the potential role of infection in the failure of sperm to develop in the testes.”

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