Perspectives on the assessment of human sperm chromatin integrity

We offer a fresh perspective on the origin and meaning of chromatin assessments of spermatozoa in relation to clinical outcomes of assisted reproductive techniques and the health of offspring.


Gianpiero D. Palermo, M.D., Ph.D., Queenie V. Neri, M.Sc., Tyler Cozzubbo, B.Sc., Zev Rosenwaks, M.D.

Volume 102, Issue 6, Pages 1508-1517


Apoptosis plays a significant role in regulating germ cell development by removing damaged germ cells from seminiferous tubules, thereby safeguarding the genome of a given species. The unique chromatin-packing process of the spermatozoon has important implications for both the development of male infertility screening tests and understanding of sperm chromatin characteristics, which may affect assisted reproductive technology outcomes. Sperm deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) integrity tests have been proposed as a means to assess male gamete competence. Although these assays are currently gaining popularity, and are more often used as a supplement to traditional semen analysis, the point at which DNA damage occurs during spermiogenesis, and to what degree, remains to be elucidated. Here, we examined current studies of DNA fragmentation, to understand its origin and import, as well as its impact on pre- and post-implantation development. As the DNA fragmentation index is strongly correlated with the motility characteristics of a semen specimen, controlling for this factor may be helpful. Utilization of more sensitive assays, possibly on the actual spermatozoa used for insemination, may generate healthier conceptuses.

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