Looking for mutated sperm? Go FISH

Chemotherapy and radiation treatments are known to cause harsh side effects, including their impact on fertility. Extensive evidence shows that chemotherapy and radiation treatments are genotoxic, meaning they can mutate the DNA and damage chromosomes in patients’ cancerous and noncancerous cells alike. When this occurs in a germline cell, which are egg cells in women and sperm in men, it can lead to serious fetal and birth defects in a resulting pregnancy.

Exacerbating the problem, there are currently no efficient and affordable tests that can be used to track men’s germ cell health by identifying when the sperm are carrying treatment-related chromosomal mutations. But evidence from a new study suggests that this may soon change.

In a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, an international team reported success adapting an established cellular DNA analysis technique called fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to probe sperm DNA for a wide variety of chromosomal defects simultaneously.

“We believe this approach has a wide range of applications in healthcare and family planning, as it can be used to identify environmental exposures that increase the risk for producing chromosomally abnormal sperm that can affect the health of future pregnancies and children for generations to come,” said lead author Andrew Wyrobek.

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