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Diabetes affects sperm, leads to infertility: study

mumbai Updated: Feb 18, 2013 01:27 IST
Priyanka Vora
Priyanka Vora
Hindustan Times
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Preliminary findings of a city-based study on diabetes and infertility among men has found that the disease increases the risk of DNA damage in sperms, resulting in infertility.

The ongoing study by doctors at Jaslok Hospital, Peddar Road, which has completed three years, has found that DNA damage among diabetics is more than double as compared to non-diabetics. The study is significant with doctors treating increasing numbers of diabetics seeking infertility treatments. It is estimated that every fifth Indian is a diabetic.

Researchers have found that diabetes causes oxidative stress that damages the DNA of the sperm. Oxidative stress releases ions in the body that accelerate the natural process of cell death and damage the sperm DNA. “It is known that diabetic men may take a longer time to bring about conception in their wives who may also be prone to a higher incidence of miscarriage,” said Dr Firuza Parikh, director, department of assisted reproduction and genetics, Jaslok Hospital.

Dr Parikh’s team studied the sperm count, motility (ability of the sperm to move towards the egg) and morphology (sperm structure) in 60 diabetics and 78 non-diabetics in the age group of 27 to 45 years.

After subjecting their sperms to various laboratory tests, it was found that DNA damage in the diabetic group was 15.9% as compared to 6.4% among the non-diabetic group (see box).

“All these men were newly-diagnosed diabetics who had come to the clinic for infertility treatment,” said Dr Prochi Madon, head, genetics lab at the centre.

The study also found that in diabetics the sperm’s ability to move towards the egg, which leads to conception, was far lower (22%) than their healthy counterparts (46%). Similarly, the sperm count was less in diabetic men (26 million/ml) compared to the healthy group (59 million/ml). The structure of the sperm was also found to be abnormal in 92% diabetic men as opposed to 11% in the normal group.

Dr Arundhati Athalye, principal investigator of the study said there is a need to assess if antioxidants in tablet form can improve the sperm quality to reduce oxidative stress on the sperm.

The study was presented at a seminar on Male Infertility conducted by the centre last week.