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Sperm Comet Test Solves 80% of Unexplained Infertility

Medical News Today,  Nov 15, 2012

November 15, 2012

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, say a recent discovery accounts for 80% unexplained infertility cases. Typically, infertility is the result of female factors 1/3 of the time, male factors 1/3 of the time, and unexplained factors 1/3 of the time. There are approximately 7.3 million people in the United States diagnosed with infertility.

The study, published in the journal, Reproductive BioMedicine Online, examined over 500 couples and shows that 80% of those with unexplained infertility will now have an answer to their most burning question- why aren’t we getting pregnant? Queen’s professor, Sheena Lewis, says high sperm DNA damage is the cause for this type of infertility and can be examined via a new technique employed in conjunction with a semen analysis. The Sperm Comet, much like the name suggests, highlights undamaged DNA as the head of a comet and damaged DNA as the tail. Measurements of the tail can show the exact amount of damaged DNA in each individual sperm.

Additionally, the results of this study suggest that IVF success is correlated with the amount of damaged DNA: the greater the damage, the lower chances of success. Some sperm damage, approximately 15%, is still considered normal. Once damage affects more than 25% of sperm, conception becomes much more difficult to achieve even through fertility treatment. This discovery will help redirect patients to the appropriate treatment versus wasting time on treatments, like intrauterine insemination (IUI), that we now know will not be successful. Lewis says,"This test can predict the success of infertility treatments and fast-track couples to the treatment most likely to succeed, leading to reduced waiting times and improved chances of success. With one million couples worldwide requiring fertility treatment, these new research findings will give many fresh hope of having a family."

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