Spermatogenesis in men is the process by which sperm is made. It is constantly happening and doesn’t follow a cycle like female fertility. The entire process takes about four months, which is why pre-fertility planning for men should be a four-month window of positive health changes before trying to ensure that when you try, you’re delivering the healthiest sperm possible.

It occurs in the seminiferous tubules of the testes. These tubules are surrounded by lydeg cells, which make testosterone. Spermatogenesis happens in three stages.

  1. Mitotic Cell division – men need *lots* of sperm to have any shot at reproductive success
  2. Meiosis – normal cells with two strands of DNA pull themselves apart to form two haploid cells with one strand of genetic material each. Sperm need only one strand of genetic material because the egg will provide the other on fertilization.
  3. Spermiogenesis – where these haploid sperm cells get their heads and tails so they can swim.
MTHFR and Men's Fertility

This process requires the following:

  • Lots of healthy germ cells (or stem cells)
  • Good levels of testosterone
  • Low estrogen
  • A nutritionally rich environment ensures sperm health
  • Temperature control around the testes because testes are highly susceptible to heat injury
  • GnRH, LH, and FSH are all necessary for the process. LH signnals testosterone release and FSH helps mature germ cells.

Sperm Health and Global Warming?

Research has increasingly shown a global decline in sperm health and men’s reproductive success. Some research has hypothesized that this could be partly linked to global warming.

“Recent reports have noticed a decline in the spermatozoa concentrations in the ejaculates of healthy males. This decline has occurred over the last decades, and specific factors affecting embryonal development seem to be the cause. These factors include prenatal influences such as hormones, drugs, radiation, metabolites in the drinking water, and nourishment of the mother. Moreover, the spermatogenetic process of the testis is affected by increased temperatures. These negative influences lead to a reduction in spermatogenesis, which manifests as a reduction in the number of mature spermatids or the formation of malformed spermatids.”

Suede SH, Malik A, Sapra A. Histology, Spermatogenesis. [Updated 2022 Mar 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.
The MTHFR gene and male fertility

MTHFR and Male Infertility

Research has shown a strong link between male infertility and MTHFR polymorphisms. Most notably, the homozygous C677T mutation, which most strongly affects caucasian and Asian men, and the A1298C polymorphism, which has its greatest effect in Asian men. MTHFR is one of the biggest factors in unexplained male infertility.

Some people think that male infertility is not common, but it is. The inability to conceive a child is the prime sign of male infertility and it doesn’t often show in other ways. Male infertility can be caused due to various reasons such as MTHFR polymorphism, inherited disorder, hormonal imbalance, dilated veins around the testicles or a condition that prevents the passage of sperm. If there are other symptoms, they may include:

  1. Sexual problems – such as difficulty with ejaculating or ejaculating a small amount of fluid, reduced sexual desire, or difficulty maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction).
  2. Pain, swelling, or a lump in the area around the testicles.
  3. Respiratory infections that recur on a regular basis.
  4. Inability to detect smells.
  5. Abnormal growth of breasts.
  6. Decrease in the amount of hair on the face or body.
  7. Having a low sperm count (fewer than 15 million sperm per milliliter of sperm or a total sperm count of less than 39 million per ejaculate) or abnormal sperm morphology on a sperm study.
  1. It is estimated that 7% of all men experience infertility at some point in their lives.
  2. Approximately one in seven heterosexual couples in the United Kingdom suffer from infertility.
  3. In general, 30% of fertility problems are caused by a problem with the man, 30% by a problem with the woman, and 30-40% are caused by a combination of both or an unknown problem.
  4. About 10-15% of infertile men are completely devoid of sperm as a result of infertility.
  5. Around half of all cases of male infertility can be attributed to an underlying cause that is unknown.
  6. MTHFR polymorphism has been linked to otherwise unexplained male infertility.
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