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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