Our team in Birmingham has shown that sperm DNA damage more than doubles the risk of miscarriage.
This is a crucial finding; until now, miscarriage has generally been considered an exclusively female problem, with investigations and management targeting only women.
Yet the role of sperm DNA damage in miscarriage is not surprising. This is because while most cell types are able to repair damaged DNA, sperm lose this ability during development and have to rely on repair mechanisms in the egg. As the level of damage in the sperm DNA increases it also becomes increasingly likely that any repairs by the egg may create genetic mutations that could increase the risk of miscarriage.
Most existing tests for sperm DNA damage are insufficiently sensitive to be clinically useful; we are developing a more accurate combined assay system and therapies to achieve repair. One potential cause of sperm DNA damage is exposure to Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) during production and transit. We are investigating the possibilities for changes in antioxidant balance to reduce the risk of miscarriage.
Accurate and understandable results may open up channels beyond antioxidant therapy, for example, employing advanced sperm selection technologies to minimise risk.
Whether you are a patient, a researcher or a helath professional, find out how you can get involved in this research.