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J Assist Reprod Genet. 2011 Nov;28(11):1073-85. doi: 10.1007/s10815-011-9631-8. Epub 2011 Sep 9.

Sperm DNA integrity assays: diagnostic and prognostic challenges and implications in management of infertility.

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Laboratory for Molecular Reproduction and Genetics, Department of Anatomy, All India Institute of Medical Science, New Delhi, India.


Sperm is not a simple carrier of paternal genetic information but its role extends clearly beyond fertilization. Integrity of sperm genome is an essential pre-requisite for birth of healthy offspring and evaluation of sperm should entail DNA integrity analysis. DNA integrity analysis is a better diagnostic and prognostic marker of sperm reproductive potential. Conventional semen analysis emphasizes on sperm concentration, viability, motility and morphology and has been proven to be a poor indicator of reproductive potential and pregnancy outcome. To overcome the drawbacks associated with conventional semen analysis more useful fertility tests and molecular biomarkers have been explored. Among the different tests which have evolved for assessing the sperm reproductive potential, tests for sperm DNA quality are most promising. Sperm DNA damage has been closely associated with numerous indicators of reproductive health including fertilization, embryo quality, implantation, spontaneous abortion, congenital malformations and childhood diseases. It therefore has great potential as a prognostic test for both in vitro and in vivo conception. This review presents an updated account of tests that have better diagnostic and prognostic implications in the evaluation of sperm DNA damage. The basic principles, outline of methodology, advantage, disadvantage, clinical significance of each technique and implications of these tests have been discussed. The logistics of each test with respect to available resources and equipment in an andrology laboratory, the feasibility of performing these tests in routine diagnostic workup of infertile men and the opportunities and challenges provided by DNA testing in male fertility determination are also presented.

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