Diabetes And Damaged DNA

The Problem With Damaged Sperm DNA

A study completed at Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland has produced data indicating that men with diabetes tend to have more damaged sperm than men who do not suffer with the disease. Dr. Ishola Agbaje, a research fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Research Group at Queen's University, and his co-author, Professor Sheena Lewis, said that the findings were troublesome given the steadily rising rates of diabetes.

Although the full implications for sperm affected by diabetes are unknown, it is certain that defective sperm DNA is a cause of male infertility, pregnancy failure and miscarriage.

Research Indicates Both Type 1 And Type 2 Diabetes Are Dangerous To Sperm

This is the first study of its kind which compares the DNA in sperm from men with and without diabetes and the study showed that around 52 percent of the DNA in the sperm cells was fragmented in diabetic men compared to 32 percent in men without diabetes. When the mitochondria, the energy-producing parts within cells, were examined they were found to have a higher rate of deletions. The volume of semen was significantly less in diabetic men but sperm concentration, structure and motility were not significantly different.

This type of DNA damage appears in men with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood whereas Type 2 diabetes is normally developed in adulthood. Indicators for Type 2 diabetes are diet and obesity. The incidence of Type 1 diabetes, usually diagnosed when children are young or in early adolescence, is rising across Europe at the rate of three percent per year. Dr. Agbaje said, "Diabetes will affect many more men prior to and during their reproductive years." He added that up to one in six couples will require the help of a specialty to become pregnant.

Three Things To Investigate In Further Research

Co-author, Professor Lewis, strongly indicated that it was not possible to say definitively whether DNA damage resulting from diabetes would affect fertility in the same manner as DNA damage caused by other factors such as smoking. She goes on to say, "There are three things we need to look at - the number of men with diabetes and fertility problems, we need to look at children of diabetic fathers to see if there is an impact on their health and we need to find the exact nature of the DNA damage."

Dr. Allan Percy, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, said the quality of sperm DNA was important. "Although there is no significant evidence that men with diabetes are less fertile, or their children less healthy, it is of some concern that more of their sperm DNA may be damaged," he said. He added, "It would be important to understand the mechanism by which this damage occurs so that if it can be avoided we can work out how to do this." Dr. Percy suggests that men should consult with their doctors to address any concerns they may have.

While the study was not large, the findings are alarming and more research into this area is being sought.


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