Biomarkers help select sperm donors

Male infertility is behind around half of all cases of infertility, and is generally assessed by looking at semen under the microscope, though this doesn't always provide enough useful information--some infertile men can have semen that looks perfectly normal, which is a problem when selecting men to act as donors for intrauterine insemination.

Researchers at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) and the Puigvert Foundation have made a link between the gene profiles in sperm and their ability to fertilize the egg that could be used as a predictive biomarker in infertility.

The researchers created gene expression profiles from donor sperm from 68 young, healthy men, looking at 85 genes, and linked these up with pregnancy rates after IUI. They created a biomarker panel based on four genes, which was more than three times as sensitive at recognizing subfertile men than looking at sperm samples under the microscope.

The results were published in the journal Human Reproduction. According to the researchers, the study could be used as an additional test to identify men with low fertility despite having normal semen values. While the biomarker panel was created to select the best donors, it could also be used to predict fertility and help investigate unexplained infertility for couples trying to conceive naturally.

- read the press release
- see the abstract