Male fertility. Are men under extinction?
Are men under extinction and what does this have to do with the declining male fertility?
Over the last 40 years the percentage of infertility has been quadrupled: from 4% in 1965 to 16% in our times. Nowadays, one of the most common cause of infertility is poor sperm quality and low sperm count. So what’s wrong?
There are several factors affecting male fertility more or less, both environmental and genetic. All these combined can change the overall sperm quality in time.
How does male genetics contribute to this outcome?
Sperm production in males is controlled by a series of male-specific genes found on Y chromosome. Y chromosome structure, however, is not as stable as of other chromosomes’ since it lacks a gene necessary for fixing mistakes made during duplication of the genetic material. That means that Y cannot efficiently fix genetic mistakes leading to its gradual degradation over time and consequently to declining male fertility.
Experts estimate that due to the inherent fragility of male sex chromosome Y, men are heading towards extinction. Whether this happens or not, that is something for evolution to determine but certainly this event signifies the possibility of men dealing with growing reproductive problems in the future.
Luckily, the constant development of male infertility treatments allows fertility specialists to help men with low or even zero sperm count to become fathers. In such cases, sperm is harvested straight from the testicles and directly injected into the oocyte for a successful fertilisation.
This technique, ICSI, is the only one that can efficiently assist an infertile man with poor sperm quality. Technology (ART) enables infertile men to father a child while, on the other hand, such a cure supports gene perpetuation from practically infertile fathers to boys potentially suffering from the same reproductive problems in the future.
The positive side of the subject is that first of all, everyone has the right to use assisted reproductive technology. Secondly, scientific progress might even be able to cure men’s reproductive problems in overall, on a genetic level someday in the future.