It may take days, weeks or even a year to determine whether or not a man is infertile, but a new study from an American reproductive biologist, Michael Skinner, could change that.
Skinner and his team discovered that an infertile man has identifiable patterns of epigenetic biomarkers or molecules attached to their sperm DNA, which are not present in a fertile man.
They also found epigenetic biomarkers that responded well to hormonal therapy, treating the condition effectively.
The researchers said that the study could help doctors to conduct a reliable method of screening for infertile men and figure out the treatment options that work best for them, saving time for doctors and patients to diagnose and treat the condition early.
Currently, doctors diagnose male infertility by assessing sperm quantity and motility, which has been found to have limited success.
Skinner said, “Male infertility is increasing worldwide and is recognized as playing a key role in reproductive health and disease. 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.”
More than 20 percent of men, who need in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to have children, will have infertility problems with an unknown cause. Typically, these men are put on a treatment regimen for a year or even more before they are advised to get IVF done.
Skinner and his team found that all of the study participants who were infertile had a specific biomarker that is not present in fertile men. They also found another biomarker among the infertile men, which could help determine in whom hormonal therapy would work.
Currently, the scientists are in the process of conducting a much larger clinical trial.
While the work still is in an early stage of development, Skinner believes that it can be used to determine the diagnosis of other diseases as well. He said, “We are interested in investigating a similar diagnostic for determining how patients with arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases such as autism will respond to different treatments. In the area of therapeutics where many of the drugs on the market only work for a fraction of patients, this could ultimately save time, money and facilitate much better healthcare management.”