One of the most damaging aspects of fertility treatment is that this practice is commonly discussed as a woman’s issue. It is commonly speculated that when a family is unable to conceive that the problems lies in the would-be mother’s hormones or reproductive system. However, the cause of infertility is most often split into three categories: female issues, male issues, and a combination of the two. In roughly one third of the cases we see the sole reason for inability to conceive is because of issues with the would-be father’s reproductive system, more specifically his sperm. It is no question that sperm plays a major role in the creation of an embryo, but the research on sperm may provide fertility doctors even more insight on how to understand and treat male infertility.
What Is Sperm?
Male reproductive cells are known as sperm. They contain 23 chromosomes, and when they successfully meet with an ovum, female reproductive cells, they fuse and create an embryo filled with 36 chromosomes. Sperm are made up of two parts; the head, which consists of a protective coating, enzymes, proteins, and the genetic material, and the flagellum which resembles a tail that provides these cells the motility they need to reach the available embryo. The fluid that enables sperm to meet the ovum is known as semen and is alkaline. This protects the semen as they enter the female reproductive tract, an acidic environment, until they can safely meet the female gamete and bind.
Conception is not less than a miracle. When a female is at her peak fertility her body will release one (or more in some cases) egg into the uterus. Through intercourse millions of sperm cells will enter her reproductive system, yet only one will make it to the ovum and successfully fertilize the egg. This is an extremely complex process in which the ovum sends out chemical signals that attract the 200 or so sperm cells that successfully make it into the uterus. Once at the egg, a sperm cell uses an enzyme present on its head to begin dissolving the egg cells first membrane. It with then bind with a coating known as the zona pellucida then the plasma membrane. Once broken through the sperm cells go through an acrosome reaction in which the genetic material ejects from that cell into the egg cell’s cytoplasm via exocytosis. This begins the process of meiosis in which the cells combine, create a diploid cell consisting of 36 chromosomes and begin the splitting that marks the development of an embryo.
Sperm and Infertility
Infertility is a multifaceted issue and for male infertility sperm is often the focus. When a couple has difficulty conceiving after one year of trying for a child, they come see their Viera fertility specialist. Tests will be run on both partners. A semen analysis is the first and most important test for our male patients. This analysis is comprehensive and will evaluate the overall health of the sperm by testing the count, motility, and the percentage of normal sperm in the sample – because there are millions of sperm released and roughly 200 will make it to the final destination a surprising amount of these cells are of abnormal morphology. Because of this these cells are normally among the millions left behind. After an analysis a Viera, Florida fertility doctor will be able to get a read on how healthy a patient’s sperm is, and what can be done to improve the couple’s odds of becoming pregnant.
New Research in Male Fertility
Sperm is certainly an important part of determining a couple’s fertility. However many men experience issues with their reproductive systems that make their sperm ineffectual. New research has found that a common genetic mutation that renders men infertile can be sidestepped in an interesting new treatment. The interaction between sperm and egg cells during fertilization is almost impossibly complex. It’s one of those chemical situations that makes you wonder how anyone becomes pregnant at all. There is one protein found in sperm that seems to have a major effect conception: phospholipase C zeta, or PLC-zeta. When a sperm and ovum are finally connected the ovum experiences a dramatic and repetitive increase in calcium, these are known as calcium oscillations. This happens right before an embryo begins to form. PLC-zeta protein has been discovered to trigger that oscillation. Researchers at Qatar University found that this when this protein was absent from sperm conception was impossible. They also found that by injecting the egg with this protein they could restart the fertilization process and create success for their patients. This research is in its infancy, however it is exciting news that more fertility testing is being done to discover the cause of fertility issues so specialists like Dr. Chamoun can help his patients achieve parenthood.