Infertility affects about one in six couples with male infertility being the causative factor in nearly half of all cases. Male infertility may be due to low sperm production, defective sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, illnesses, injuries, and chronic health problems may also contribute.
For most men, it is not the quantity of sperm that they produce that is the problem, it is the quality. In fact, defective sperm function is the single largest defined cause of human infertility; however, the causes that produce defective sperm are unknown in 30-50% of cases.
In this study published in Biology of Reproduction, researchers from the University of the Republic, Montevideo, showed a direct correlation between sperm motility and speed with sperm mitochondrial function.
Energy production and the rate of other reactions were increased in faster and more agile sperm. Conversely, mitochondrial functioning was decreased in sperm with low motility. In addition, the production of free radicals and oxidative stress was increased with defective cellular components, creating a self-perpetuating mechanism that further limits fertility.
This research suggests that targeted compounds that improve cellular function may hold promise as a treatment for male infertility.