Several studies have found that air pollution can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and fertility, but there was no exact explanation on how it can lead to these conditions.
Now, a new study from the researchers of the University of Maryland School of Medicine has shown how air pollution reduces sperm count by causing brain inflammation, according to Science Daily.
The brain has a direct connection to the reproductive organs. And under stressful conditions, brain inflammation could affect fertility and sperm count.
However, the new study, published last month in Environmental Health Perspectives, shows how breathing polluted air affect fertility in mice.
Lead author Dr. Zhekang Ying said, “Our findings showed that the damage due to air pollution – at least to the sperm count – could be remedied by removing a single inflammation marker in the brains of mice, suggesting that we may be able to develop therapies that could prevent or reverse the damaging effects of air pollution on fertility.”
Researchers Dr. Charles Hong said, “These findings have wider implications than just fertility, as there are many conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease that can result from brain inflammation due to air pollution.”
Previous studies have shown that mice exposed to polluted air did not always have inflammation of the testes that make sperm, which means there could be some other mechanism that reduces sperm counts.
Given the fact that the sex organs are directly linked to the brain, the researchers tested whether air pollution increased brain inflammation.
Dr. Ying explained, “Looking back, it makes perfect sense that the neurons in the hypothalamus are the culprits perpetuating this inflammation response that results in low sperm count, as we know that the hypothalamus is a major pathway link between the brain and the reproductive system.”
Dr. E. Albert Reece commented, “Environmental pollution is a problem of equity in that some persons who are poor or of color tend to face more severe health-related conditions due to greater exposure.”
“It is important to explore the mechanisms by which pollution affects the body,” he added, “so we can devise ways to prevent or treat these conditions to eliminate these health disparities.” The article was published in Science Daily.