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Reproduction. 2007 Jul;134(1):31-40.

Is sperm evaluation useful in predicting human fertility?

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School of Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen's University Belfast, Institute of Clinical Science, Grosvenor Road, Belfast BT12 6BA, UK.


Traditionally, the diagnosis of male infertility has relied upon microscopic assessment and biochemical assays to determine human semen quality. The conventional parameters given most importance have been the concentration, motility, and morphology of sperm in the ejaculate. Most laboratories also include 'sperm suitability' tests where the subpopulations of sperm more likely to finish the marathon journey to the oocyte are separated by density centrifugation. These tests are essential to provide the fundamental information on which clinicians base their initial diagnosis. However, none of these parameters addresses sperm function and their clinical value in predicting fertility is questionable. The advent of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has further reduced the significance and perceived need for sperm quality tests since ICSI requires only one sperm, not subject to classic, or indeed any, tests for the procedure to be successful. Over the past decade, a number of laboratory tests have been developed to determine properties of sperm function. These include quantitative sperm motion parameters, capacitation, basal and induced acrosome reactions, sperm-zona pellucida interactions and nuclear and mitochondrial sperm DNA but few have been adopted into routine clinical use. International collaborations should be initiated to develop clinically relevant molecular and functional tests with agreed protocols and clinical thresholds as a matter of urgency.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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