AzoospermiaWhen it comes to the science of infertility, knowledge is power. A new study from the University of Pennsylvania just revealed some important new information regarding the cause of a common male infertility condition called azoospermia.

Azoospermia is one of the several diagnoses associated with male infertility. It means no sperm are present in the semen, which can be caused by an obstruction or because no sperm are produced at all. About 1 percent of men suffer the medical condition, accounting for up to 20 percent of the total cases of male infertility. Until recently, there was no known cause for the non-obstructive type of azoospermia.

However, new research out of the University of Pennsylvania revealed that for some of these men, azoospermia might be caused by a mutation in the Tex11 Gene. The Tex 11 gene, an X chromosome gene, is associated with meiosis, a type of cell division where the chromosome number reduces by half, a typical division type seen in animals that reproduce sexually. The disruption of the gene results in complications with meiosis.

The paper appeared in EMBO Molecular Medicine. It represents the first finding that links a cause to the condition suffered by men. Although 1 percent sounds like a small number, it is important in that there are hundreds of candidate genes involved in male fertility. Finding 1 percent is statistically important, from a scientific standpoint.

Understanding is often the gateway to overcoming a challenge. Now that we see a genetic link for this condition, we can address the consequences of it. For a couple experiencing fertility treatment, understanding why the father suffers azoospermia also helps them make a decision regarding their treatment regimen. And, of course, there is always the hope that one day we can reverse these effects and alleviate the condition altogether.

Male infertility is the sole cause of at least one-third of all infertility diagnoses. Because it is relatively easy to diagnose, we always start with the man in our fertility workup. We begin the workup with a physical exam, graduating next to a semen analysis. This helps us see the number, the movement (motility) and the shape (morphology) of the sperm themselves. All of these factors go into determining the level of health for a man’s fertility.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for male infertility. In the case of non-obstructive azoospermia, there is also no hope of a biological child for the father. Perhaps revelations like the study we see out of the University of Pennsylvania will change that for future generations.

Sources:

“Infertility and Men.” www.webmd.com. Web. 14 July 2015. < http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/male-fertility-test.>

“Team Identifies Gene Responsible for Some Cases of Male Infertility.” Scicasts.com. Web. 14 July 2015.

“New research links mutations in TEX11 gene to some cases of male infertility.” www. news-medical.net. 2 July 2015. Web. 14 July 2015.