High BMI linked to sperm cell irregularities

Single-cell analysis of autopsied human testes suggests that abnormalities associated with aging sperm cells might be exacerbated by elevated body mass index (BMI). The research appears in the journal Developmental Cell.

Even though it is well established that older men display reduced reproductive health, testis aging remains poorly understood at the molecular and genomic level. Moreover, it has not been clear whether lifestyle or environmental factors affect this decline.

“Aging may confer a combination of modest molecular changes that sensitize the testis for additional dysregulation, with pronounced dysregulation caused when aging is combined with additional factors such as obesity,” says co-senior author Bradley Cairns of the University of Utah School of Medicine.

To address this gap, researchers sequenced more than 44,000 cells obtained from autopsy testis samples from four young men and eight older men. The older donors were screened for having offspring as young adults to ensure early-adult fertility.

Notably, BMI emerged as a critical factor among older individuals. The results reveal possible molecular mechanisms underlying the complex testicular changes associated with aging, and their possible exacerbation by concurrent chronic conditions such as obesity.

The study reveals potential biomarkers for diagnosis of testis aging and directions for potential treatment of aging-related subfertility, the researchers say. It also serves as a foundational dataset for the scientific community to study how human testis and fertility respond to aging.

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