MALE sperm age measured by a novel technique could prognosticate the success and period of time that it would take to become pregnant, as reported in a new study conducted by researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, USA. The sperm epigenetic aging clock could be a new biomarker to foretell when couples might get pregnant. The study results emphasised the significance of male partners in reproductive outcomes.
Analysing sperm quality according to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines has been used to examine male infertility for years; however, they perform poorly in terms of predicting reproductive success. This new technique for investigating the biological age of sperm could provide further insights into the male contribution to pregnancy, particularly in couples who are infertile. Sperm epigenetic aging analyses the biological age of sperm, not the chronological age. The study involved 379 male partners of couples who stopped taking contraception medication with the aim of getting pregnant. The results showed a 17% progressive likelihood of pregnancy after a year for couples with male partners in older relative to younger sperm epigenetic aging categories. Furthermore, higher epigenetic aging of sperm was observed in smokers, and is linked to an extended period of achieving pregnancy, especially in couples not undergoing assisted fertility.
The strong link between sperm epigenetic aging and pregnancy success and its reversal through lifestyle changes or pharmacological mediation deserves more research. Furthermore, older fathers have a heightened risk of children with neurological conditions. Therefore, it is essential to elucidate how sperm epigenetic aging affects children’s health and outcomes. The study limitation was that it involved a majority of Caucasian males. Further research should include more diverse study populations in order to confirm the links between sperm epigenetic aging and successful pregnancy in other races and ethnicities.
“There is a critical need for new measures of male fecundity for assessing overall reproductive success among couples in the general population,” said lead author Richard Pilsner. “These data show that our sperm epigenetic clocks may fulfil this need as a novel biomarker that predicts pregnancy success among couples not seeking fertility treatment. While chronological age of both partners remains a significant predictor of reproductive success, our clocks likely recapitulate both external and internal factors that drive the biological aging of sperm. Such a summary measure of sperm biological age is of clinical importance, as it allows couples in the general population to realise their probability of achieving pregnancy during natural intercourse, thereby informing and expediting potential infertility treatment decisions.”