Scientists have found that sperm from diabetic men have greater levels of DNA damage than sperm from men who do not have the disease. They warn that such DNA damage might affect a mans fertility.
In the first study  to compare the quality of DNA in sperm from diabetic and non-diabetic men, the researchers from Belfast, Northern Ireland showed that the DNA in the nuclei of the sperm cells had greater levels of fragmentation in diabetic men (52%, versus 32% in non-diabetic men), and that there were more deletions of DNA in the tiny, energy-generating structures in the cells called mitochondria (4 versus 3).
Dr Ishola Agbaje, who undertook the research published online today (Thursday 3 May) in the journal Human Reproduction, said: "As far as we know, this is the first report of the quality of DNA in the nucleus and mitochondria of sperm in diabetes. Our study identifies important evidence of increased DNA fragmentation of nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA deletions in sperm from diabetic men. These findings cause concern, as they may have implications for fertility."
The incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes is increasing rapidly worldwide. While diet and obesity are known to be key factors in the increase of type 2 (or late onset) diabetes, type 1 diabetes which is usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, is increasing by three per cent a year in European children, although the reason for this is not entirely clear. Genetic factors that make people more susceptible, or environmental factors such as viruses that may trigger the onset of type 1 diabetes, could play a role.
Dr Agbaje, a research fellow in the Reproductive Medicine Research Group at Queens University, Belfast, said: "If the increasing trend in the incidence of type I diabetes continues, this will result in a 50% increase over the next ten years. As a consequence, diabetes will affect many more men prior to and during their reproductive years. Inferti
Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology