Study links autoimmune disorder to male infertility

Investigators have found that the absence of autoimmune regulator (Aire) in mice results in fertility problems similar to those affecting men with autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type I (APS-1). Aire-dependent central tolerance plays a critical role in maintaining male fertility by preventing autoimmune attack against multiple reproductive targets, they report in The American Journal of Pathology.

“Male factors account for a large portion of infertility in couples, and the mechanisms underlying male infertility are poorly understood,” explained lead investigator Margaret G. Petroff, PhD, a professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University. “This study is important because it represents a previously underexplored mechanism by which fertility can be impacted through autoimmune disease.”

The correlation between impaired central immune tolerance and fertility has potential implications not only for male APS-1 patients but may also provide important insights into both male autoimmune and unexplained cases of infertility.

“By knowing more detail about what causes infertility in men, we can develop treatments and prophylactics to curb degenerative processes that affect fertility,” commented Dr. Petroff. “It may be possible to use general immunosuppressive treatments. Even better, it might be possible to design highly specific therapies that target particular immune cells, preventing these cells from causing damage to reproductive organs.”

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