The MFC commonly performs what’s called “sperm chromatin structure assay testing” to look at the fragmentation of DNA in the sperm itself. We have been involved in this type of testing and the analysis of DNA fragmentation for the past decade.
DNA fragmentation is usually performed on the first semen sample brought in for analysis and is generally required only once. Ideally, men should have low levels of DNA fragementation (<15%), as data suggest that men with high levels have a lower chance of having a child. While DNA fragmentation has no effect on the ability of the sperm to fertilize an egg, higher levels may lead to poor-quality embryos.
At the MFC, we become concerned when DNA fragmentation is >40%. (However, high fragmentation does not necessarily mean pregnancy is impossible – 1 couple had twins after DNA fragmentation results at 57%, while another had a baby following a resut of 63%.)
To correct high DNA fragmentation levels, men can supplement their diet with anti-oxidants, which have shown to lower levels. In some couples, intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)may be performed rather than conventional in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to offset the DNA problem. There is also some data showing that testicular aspiration or biopsy of the sperm may help overcome DNA problems.