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article imageCommon chemicals can damage sperm

By Tim Sandle     May 17, 2014 in Science
Copenhagen - Scientists have uncovered a molecular mechanism through which hormone disrupting compounds compromise the viability of human sperm cells, leading to an infertility risk.
Chemical additives, termed endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), can compromise male fertility by interfering with a membrane-bound calcium channel that normally controls motility of sperm cells. Here there is a problem since EDCs are used in hundreds of household products — including toothpastes, sunscreens, cosmetics, plastic bottles, and toys — and scientists determined that they can cause fertility problems in previous studies.
A new study published in the journal EMBO Reports, details how the chemical additives affect fertility in the human reproductive tract. The paper is titled "Direct action of endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm."
Copenhagen University Hospital researcher Niels Skakkebaek, who lead the study, said in a research brief: "For the first time, we have shown a direct link between exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals from industrial products and adverse effects on human sperm function."
How did Skakkebaek arrive at this conclusion? According to CNN his research group tested 96 EDCs and found that about a third of them disrupted the function of an ion channel, called CatSper, in the membranes of sperm cells. This increased concentration of calcium ions changed the swimming behavior of the sperm, triggering the premature release of digestive enzymes that sperm need to breach the outer layers of egg cells, thus affecting fertility.
According to The Guardian, this issue will lead to further debate between scientists, the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry, and policy makers.
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