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Volume 13, Issue 5 (September 2011) 13, 764–768; 10.1038/aja.2011.46

The ability of sperm selection techniques to remove single- or double-strand DNA damage

María Enciso1, Miriam Iglesias2, Isabel Galán2, Jonás Sarasa1, Antonio Gosálvez2 and Jaime Gosálvez1

1 Unidad de Genética, Departamento de Biología, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid 28049, Spain
2 Unidad de Reproducción Asistida, Hospital Quirón Madrid, Madrid 28223, Spain

Correspondence: Dr M Enciso, (mariaencisolorences@gmail.com)

Received 14 February 2011; Revised 18 March 2011; Accepted 13 April 2011; Published online 4 July 2011


A wide variety of techniques for the preparation of sperm are currently available, of which the most commonly employed are density-gradient centrifugation (DGC) and swim-up (SUP). To date, these methods appear to be effective in selecting functional sperm for assisted reproduction techniques (ART), but they may have negative effects on sperm DNA. In this study, the ability of these semen processing techniques to eliminate spermatozoa containing single- and double-strand DNA damage was assessed by the two-tailed comet assay and the sperm chromatin dispersion test in 157 semen samples from patients seeking assisted reproduction treatment. Our results indicated that SUP and DGC are equally efficient in eliminating spermatozoa containing double-strand DNA damage and sperm with highly damaged (degraded) DNA, as characterized by the presence of both single- and double-strand DNA breaks. However, DGC is more efficient than SUP in selecting spermatozoa that are free from single-strand DNA damage. Future studies should characterise the importance of the various types of DNA damage and examine the sperm processing protocols used in each laboratory to determine their ability to eliminate DNA damage and hence, prevent the potential transmission of genetic mutations via ART.

Keywords: density–gradient centrifugation; male factor; sperm chromatin dispersion; sperm DNA fragmentation; swim-up

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