Sperm’s epigenetic clock sheds light on the fertility calendar

A new technique for measuring the biological age of male sperm has the potential to predict success and the time it takes to become pregnant, according to new research.

A new newspaper – The epigenetic sperm clock is associated with pregnancy outcome in the general population – published in the journal human reproduction, found that sperm epigenetic aging clocks can act as a novel biomarker to predict the timing of pregnancy. The findings also highlight the importance of male fertility in reproductive success. [1].

Longevity.Technology: We have written extensively about how individual organs, as well as individuals, age at different rates and therefore the importance of determining biological rather than chronological age. However, it would seem that the spermatozoa, which have a chronological age of 74 days in the testicles and only 5 days once released in search of their destiny, have a biological age that can be identified.

Understanding – and possibly manipulating – the biological age of sperm could have implications for improving fertility. As we strive to achieve longevity – extending not just life, but life – there are wider ramifications to consider. Not only does society have to think about retirement options, pensions and working age, but it also has to consider the size of the population. Throughout the developed world, fertility rates have steadily declined below replacement level, so maintaining and improving fertility is a major concern, especially as there is now widespread infertility and the need for assisted reproduction due to poor semen quality and/or oocyte failure. Add reproductive health issues that are partially linked to increased human exposure to chemicals derived directly or indirectly from fossil fuels [2]and the need to understand the rate and factors affecting the biological aging of sperm is paramount.

“Chronological age is an important determinant of reproductive capacity and success in couples attempting pregnancy, but chronological age does not encapsulate cumulative genetic and external factors – environmental conditions – and therefore serves as a measure of the “true” biological age of female cells,” said J Richard Pilsner, PhD, lead author of the study.

“Semen quality results using World Health Organization guidelines have been used to assess male infertility for decades, but they remain poor predictors of reproductive outcomes. he biological age of sperm may provide a new platform to better assess male contribution to reproductive success, especially in infertile couples. [3].”

As we age, our epigenome—the chemical tags and markers applied to our DNA that revise, update, or alter its instructions—also changes; these age-related methylation alterations also occur in sperm [4] and studies of sperm epigenetics have revealed that distinct and consistent alterations in the sperm epigenome associated with aging can impact offspring [5].

This new study found a 17% lower cumulative probability of pregnancy after 12 months for couples with male partners in the epigenetic aging categories of older versus younger sperm. The study looked at 379 male partners of couples who discontinued contraceptive use in an attempt to get pregnant.

Researchers from Wayne State University School of Medicine also found higher epigenetic aging of sperm in men who smoked, consistent with existing research that demonstrates that cigarette smoke induces epigenetic alterations [6].

The results, said Dr. Pilsner, indicate that higher epigenetic aging of sperm is associated with a longer time to get pregnant in couples not assisted by fertility treatment, and among couples who achieved pregnancy, with a shorter gestation.

The strong association between epigenetic sperm aging and the likelihood of pregnancy and its slowing or reversal by lifestyle choices and/or pharmacological interventions warrants further investigation. Additionally, since older fathers have an increased risk of having children with adverse neurological outcomes, it is important to understand the potential relationship of epigenetic sperm aging to child health and development.

“There is a critical need for new measures of male fertility to assess overall reproductive success among couples in the general population,” Dr. Pilsner said. “These data show that our epigenetic sperm clocks may fulfill this need as a novel biomarker that predicts pregnancy success in couples not seeking fertility treatment.

“While the chronological age of both partners remains an important predictor of reproductive success, our clocks likely recapitulate the external and internal factors that drive the biological aging of sperm. One such summary measure of sperm biological age is d of clinical importance, as it enables couples in the general population to realize their likelihood of achieving pregnancy through natural intercourse, thereby informing and accelerating potential infertility treatment decisions. [3].”

Dr. Pilsner said that because the people studied were largely Caucasian, larger and more diverse cohorts are needed to confirm the association between epigenetic sperm aging and partnered pregnancy success in other countries. other races and ethnicities.

READ MORE: Unlocking ovarian aging could prolong fertility and delay menopause

[1] https://academic.oup.com/humrep/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/humrep/deac084/6583111
[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41574-021-00598-8
[3] https://today.wayne.edu/medicine/news/2022/05/13/new-measure-of-sperm-age-may-be-predictor-of-pregnancy-success-47890
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6087840
[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23809503/
[6] https://epigeneticsandchromatin.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13072-019-0311-8

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