ScienceChallenge 1: Improvement of Male Fertility
It is believed that at least half of the cases of infertility are related to the impairment of male fertility. ReproUnion’s Challenge 1 focuses on understanding genetic and other biological determinants of male fertility to be able to develop specialized treatments as well as implement preventive measures aiming to improve the reproductive function of future generations.
Infertility is a global problem in the western world affecting 15-20% of all couples. It has been shown that under certain circumstances environment and/or lifestyle could represent a threat to semen quality and, consequently, to male fertility. However, our understanding of genetic and other biological determinants of male fertility is far too limited, which hampers the implementation of preventive measures aiming at improving the reproductive function of future generations.
As part of the ReproUnion Biobank & Infertility Cohort (RUBIC), Challenge 1 is working on a large and unique Danish-Swedish prospective clinical study of infertile male patients. The first patients were enrolled in June 2020 and one year after, 385 men had been systematically examined (deep phenotyping), including collection of blood, semen, DNA, urine and other biological samples for biobanking. In addition, detailed questionnaire data and identification of novel biomarkers (e.g. proteomics, AR bioactivity assay etc.) will enable future research on the pathogenesis of male infertility. This will improve diagnostics of male reproductive dysfunction and proper classification of different testicular pathologies. Furthermore, the biobank will represent a unique tool for future research on prevention and treatment of impaired male fertility.
End of 2020 ReproUnion received additional funding to research the impact of COVID-19 on reproductive health and Challenge 1 is therefore also focused on researching the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on male reproductive function.
The biological specimens that are collected as part of RUBIC will contribute to assessing whether the Coronavirus has an impact on the reproductive system. One among several questions to address is whether the virus can be traced in the male reproductive organs and if it can compromise sperm quantity and quality or even be sexually transmitted. A final and more tricky research question is whether genetic variants among men could be one of the reasons why some men are more easily infected or why they get more severe symptoms than women and children.