What is DNA Sperm Fragmentation?

I recently went to a medical conference where one of the brightest urologists dedicated to Assisted Reproduction, Craig Niederberger spoke. He said that at the advent of ICSI, over 20 years ago, some predicted that male infertility was solved. Researchers became so dedicated to figuring out female infertility that understanding and treating male infertility was pushed aside. His observation was that male fertility treatment is 30 years behind its female counterpart.


We have begun in the past 5 -10 years tried to take a better look at male infertility and DNA Fragmentation is one of the tests we use to better evaluate sperm. For sperm to be able to fertilize an egg , healthy DNA of the sperm is vital. DNA is organized in a double helix spiral, like a ladder with rungs. If the rungs are damaged it is said that the DNA is fragmented. If there are lots of damaged rungs, the percentage of fragmented DNA is high. If the Index of DNA Fragmentation is over 30%, the probability of egg fertilization, development of a healthy embryo and implantation of that embryo is severely hampered. If the Index of DNA Fragmentation is under 15%, the DNA Fragmentation Index of the sperm is considered optimal. A DNA Fragmentation Index between 16-29% expresses the middle ground from good to fair.
It is noteworthy to mention that a normal sperm analysis looks at the concentration, motility and the morphology of the sperm- and does not look at the fragmentation. This is the reason that this additional test must be suggested when results are not the expected ones.
So how does sperm get damaged? Although we do not know all the reasons that damage can be caused but it has been shown that radiation, varicocele, chemical or toxin exposure are not good for the testicle but other things that do not seem so harmful like smoking, alcohol and age. Yes age! Although many think that older men can have children into their seventies, it is becoming clearer and clearer that age is very important in conception and in the future well-being of the offspring of older men.

A high DNA Fragmentation Index cannot be cured but there are steps to take to try and improve the sperm before using it. In some cases antioxidant vitamins can help The knowledge a high percentage of damaged sperm also sheds light on why the patient is not obtaining excellent embryos or that there are implantation issues.

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