In a world where restricting the mobility of sperm by cloaking the organ responsible for its distribution is a key method used to prevent pregnancy, it is indeed ironic that scientists have discovered that coatless sperm may be linked to infertility among men.
Researchers from University of California have found that a mutated gene removes a coating of carbohydrates around sperm that causes a decrease in their mobility that promotes infertility. The findings of the study were recently published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Study co-author Theodore Tollner, assistant adjunct professor at the Center for Health and the Environment, explained that the loss of the coating makes it difficult for sperm to travel through the fluids of the female reproductive tract, thereby lowering the rate of conception.
The study found that men who inherited both copies of this mutant gene, one from each parent, were among couples having the most difficulty conceiving. In fact, out of more than 500 couples in the study, of whom all were trying to conceive, the birth rate was 30 percent lower among couples with a male who had the genetic mutation.
Infertility is defined by the World Health Organization as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex. Infertility affects about 13 to 14 percent of couples worldwide. Of these, the about half of the cause is due to male infertility, with the primary reason believed to be a low sperm count. The new study is the first to discover the link between the culprit coatless sperm and being infertile.