Sub-chronic psychological stress affects male fertility

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Earlier, research has shown that a global crisis in male reproductive health is indicated by evidence of a decline in sperm count and an increase in abnormalities of the male reproductive system.

However, many unknown factors account for nearly 50 per cent of the cases. Now researchers have come up with this interesting finding.

Various scientific studies have suggested that in recent years, modified lifestyle, including psychological stress, nutrition, diet, physical activity, caffeine intake, and high scrotal temperature contribute significantly in the development of infertility and impotency.

The relationship between stress and infertility has been debated for years, with a number of studies being conducted worldwide.

BHU researchers have come up with an interesting finding. They have carried out a research to study sub-chronic psychological stress and its impact on male fertility.

The study conducted on rats found out that the adult rats, who were subjected to stress developed symptoms which could adversely affect fertility.

The research team exposed rats to sub-chronic stress for 1.5 to 3 hours every day for a period of 30 days and measured the quality and quantity of sperm. The researchers observed that there was a severe deterioration in daily sperm production.

Raghav Kumar Mishra, Department of Zoology, Institute of Science, and Anupam Yadav, who is pursuing his PhD. under the guidance of Mishra, have done this research.

They also found morphological or structural abnormality in the sperm. Specifically, the epididymal spermatozoa (the sperm stored and matured in one of the male reproductive accessory structures called epididymis) were adversely affected by stress exposure.

Normal sperm morphology contains three parts which are named as head, neck and tail. The study discovered abnormalities in the basic structure of the sperm with the frequency of spermatozoa with tail abnormalities higher than that of spermatozoa with head abnormalities.

According to Mishra, the internal structural organisation of the testis, subjected to stress was also found altered. This exposure adversely affected testicular daily sperm production by disturbing the meiotic and post-meiotic germ cell kinetics (the processes involved in the formation of sperm out of germ cells) in the testis.

The stress also disrupted male hormone (testosterone) synthesis and increased oxidative stress (imbalance between harmful molecules and antioxidant enzymes) in testis.

This is one of the few detailed works studying the relationship between sub-chronic stress and its effect on male reproductive health.

Mishra said that the study could pave the way for new areas of analysis with regard to psychological stress and reproductive well-being. The findings of the study have been published in the globally reputed journal of male reproductive physiology — Andrologia.

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