20 February 2012
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi India
Telomeres — protective caps at the ends of human chromosome — has now been linked to infertility among men in their reproductive age group.
A day after TOI reported how a blood test will soon be available for Indians to gauge their telomere length — the best indicators of biological age as against chronological age — doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) report that they have found telomere length among infertile men –significantly shorter” than their fertile counterparts.
The multi–departmental study, to be published soon, says reduced telomere length is causing the testis to age faster than normal, making even young men infertile.
Dr Rima Dada, associate professor at AIIMS’ department of Anatomy, told TOI –Telomeres are elongated by the enzyme called telomerase. Numerous studies have addressed the connection between telomere and various diseases but telomere length in sperm and its role in fertilization are not known.
Our study was aimed to analyze the sperm telomere length in both infertile and control (fertile) men. All cases were evaluated for routine semen analysis. Sperm DNA was isolated and the average mean telomere length was measured. The relative sperm mean telomere length of infertile men was found to be significantly lower when compared to controls.”
The pilot study involved around 50 men. The team is preparing to conduct a largescale study to further validate the finding. The team of researchers that included Dr Dada, Dr Rajeev Kumar from the department of urology and Dr Deepika Deka from the department of gynecology made another finding. Free radicals — atoms that start a chain reaction and cause cell damage when they react with important cellular components such as DNA or cell membrane, caused by oxidative stress — also affects telomere length.
–Free radicals in our body are reduced when we exercise moderately, have plenty of fruits and vegetables instead of non vegetarian food. Cells may function poorly or die due to free radicals. Having a diet of antioxidants rich food prevents cellular damage —the common reason for cancer, aging and a variety of degenerative diseases. Smoking, alcohol, fast food and obesity increases oxidative stress,” Dr Dada added.
Infertility has become a serious problem in India and is affecting 20% of couples attempting pregnancy and in over 60% of the cases it is due to low sperm count in men.