Male infertility linked to steroids and other fertility news from May
31st May 2019
Every month we’ll bring you a round up of the most important fertility news from the UK and around the world.
Male Infertility Linked to Steroids
Scientists have uncovered a link between steroid abuse and common causes of male infertility. These products, aimed at making men larger and more muscular – and potentially more attractive to the opposite sex- are actually stopping them procreating. The evolutionary irony has not been lost on researchers. They named the theory the Mossman-Pacey paradox, after the scientists who first highlighted the interesting correlation. Mossman was studying in Sheffield when he made the connection between steroid abuse and low sperm count. “They are trying to look really big, to look like the pinnacles of evolution.” he says. “But they are making themselves very unfit in an evolutionary sense – without exception they had no sperm in their ejaculation at all.”
Anabolic steroids mimic the effect testosterone has on the body, which makes the brain think the testes are in overdrive. In reaction, the pituitary gland shuts down the production of LH and FSH – which are essential hormones for the sperm production. Prof Allan Pacey, from the University of Sheffield, added: “Isn’t it ironic that men go to the gym to look wonderful, for the most part to attract women, and inadvertently decrease their fertility.”
IVF tech businesses raises $12m
IVF advancements got another boost this month as NYC based robotics innovator TMRW raised over £12m in Series A financing. TMRW have created a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) specifically aimed at improving the storage of eggs during IVF. This is one in a long line of recent developments in healthtech.
Co-founded by Joshua Abram, Alan Murray and Jeff Port, the platform is the first of its kind to be used in this way. The technology automates the identification, freezing and storage of the eggs, creating a digital chain of custody for all fertility cells. This pioneering reproductive technology automates 17,000 daily ‘health checks’ analysing the environment the cells are stored in, ensuring their safety. Currently, the process of storing frozen embryos is pretty archaic compared to general advancements made in IVF since 1978. The manual way in which eggs are monitored and retrieved from storage leaves a lot of room for human error. This can lead to embryos being damaged during the storage process – and no longer being viable for pregnancy. TMRW hopes by automating the process they can reduce the risk of egg damage and improve IVF success rates.
Egg freezing rises in popularity
The number of egg freezing cycles in the UK rose 11% from 2016 to 2017, proving popularity for this once niche procedure is growing. With more women choosing to embrace motherhood later in life – and some businesses offering to freeze your eggs as part of their benefits package – it is unsurprising that egg freezing has been called ‘the fastest fertility trend’.
It seems that this number could continue to rise in the future, as younger generations are already showing interest in the procedure. In a recent survey, almost half of women aged 18 to 24 said they would consider freezing their eggs.
But it’s not only the popularity that is rising – success rates are also on the up. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that birth rates from eggs that have been frozen are now comparable with fresh eggs. The higher success rate – which has risen from 18% to 23% – could be down to younger women choosing to go through the egg freezing journey.
Lucy Spragan and wife undergo IVF
Former X Factor star Lucy Spraggan opened up about her personal fertility journey this month. Lucy married her wife Georgina Gordon in 2016. The couple have been receiving IVF treatment for the past 2 years, but are yet to conceive. Whilst it is Georgina undergoing the medical side of treatment, Lucy spoke to Guilty Pleasures about the toll the process has taken on them as a couple. ’We’ve been having fertility treatment for a couple of years and it is hard when you get those negative results.“ Lucy said. “All the trials and tribulations of fertility treatment are pretty intense. We’ve decided to take a break from it as it takes over your life.”
Lucy’s honest description of IVF comes at a time when its prominence amongst same sex couples is on the rise. The Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA) recently revealed that between 2016 and 2017 there was a 12% increase in lesbian couples seeking IVF treatment. In the same time frame, treatment for surrogates rose by 22%.
Whilst they wait to become biological parents, Lucy and Gerogina have fostered 14 children from the Manchester and Stockport area.