Epigenetics and Male Fertility
Understanding how your lifestyle factors may
impact your fertility.
Epigenetics is the study of how external factors can impact our DNA’s gene expression without changing the DNA itself.
Epigenetic “markers” affect the way your genes are “read” and can modify the function and activity of your genes. Each cell type in your body is genetically identical but needs to serve a different purpose to sustain a normally functioning human body: neurons, white blood cells, muscle cells, etc.
Several external factors can impact your epigenome both positively and negatively, including aging, environmental exposure, diseases like cancer, diet, and even exercise.
The changes aren’t necessarily permanent either. There is some evidence showing they can change in both directions. For example, if you experienced negative changes to your epigenome from smoking, quitting could allow you to bounce back.
Different genes are associated with different parts of fertility.
TAS2R60 for example is a gene that is thought to have an important role in helping sperm “find” the egg and the gene CATSPER has a well-documented role in helping sperm penetrate the egg. While ID3 is important for embryo development. These are just three out of many genes believed to be related to fertility.
Seed looks at abnormalities with individual genes in your DNA and gives you more specific information about your case.
By examining sperm DNA for abnormalities in different genes important to fertility, we can determine your risks for male factor infertility and poor embryo development. These abnormalities can be present even when semen parameters like count, motility, and morphology appear normal.
Different genes are believed to be associated with different parts of fertility.
Multiple academic studies have shown a correlation between regular cigarette smoking and an increased risk of infertility, reduced frequency of pregnancies, and fetal losses.
In one study comparing sperm from normal and obese men, DNA methylation marks were distinct between the two populations. The obese men then went through bypass and a resetting of the sperm epigenetic profile was found to occur in response to the surgery. This supports the idea that your epigenetic abnormalities could be reversed with lifestyle changes.
While most people know that a woman’s fertility declines as she ages, the relationship between a man’s age and fertility is less understood. However, there is a relationship between a man’s age and sperm abnormalities, as well as the possibility that his offspring will have an increased chance of being autistic, bipolar, or schizophrenic.