Smoking reduces men’s fertility

Photo: Boby. Creative Commons.

We found that smoking is linked to more sperm DNA damage. We call it “DNA fragmentation”.

Men who smoke have a lower number of sperm capable of achieving fertilization. We took a closer look that what might be going on by looking inside the sperm cells of men who smoke compared to men who don’t.

We found that smokers had more sperm with damaged DNA. We call it “DNA fragmentation”, which is the presence of breaks in the DNA strand, and we believe it is linked to the presence of toxic and oxidative compounds that enter the body through smoking.

We also found that the mitochondria, the “batteries” of the cell, were less active in these men, in a likely similar mechanism that alters DNA quality.

Another malfunction that we believe is linked to the same compounds is the breakdown of the acrosome, which is a membrane present on the sperm head that releases enzymes so that sperm can penetrate the zona pellucida – a protective layer that covers the egg.

In conjunction, these alterations render the ejaculate of lower quality, leading to a decreased fertile potential in these men.

When we looked at the mechanisms in place in their semen, we found that there are more proteins associated with the immune system being triggered. We believe this is linked to inflammation in the accessory glands and in the testes which can be detected in smokers.