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Abstract

Volume 10, Issue 4 (July 2008) 10, 602–606; 10.1111/j.1745-7262.2008.00346.x

Evidence that chronic hypoxia causes reversible impairment on male fertility

Vittore Verratti1, Francesco Berardinelli1, Camillo Di Giulio2, Gerardo Bosco2, Marisa Cacchio2, Mario Pellicciotta3, Michele Nicolai1, Stefano Martinotti4 and Raffaele Tenaglia1

1 Department of Medicine and Aging Science, University of Chieti, Chieti 66013, Italy
2 Department of Basic and Applied Medical Sciences, University of Chieti, Chieti 66013, Italy
3 Biostatistical Office, Regina Elena Institute, Rome 00144, Italy
4 Laboratorio di Patologia Clinica II, University of Chieti, Chieti 66013, Italy

Correspondence: Dr Vittore Verratti, Chieti University, Department of Medicine and Aging Science, Via dei Vestini 31, Chieti-Pescara 66013, Italy. Fax: +39-0871-355-4044. E-mail: vittorelibero@hotmail.it

Received 26 March 2007; Accepted 26 July 2007.

Abstract

Aim: To evaluate the effect of chronic hypoxia on human spermatogenic parameters and their recovery time.

Methods: Seminological parameters of six male healthy mountain trekkers were evaluated in normoxia at sea level. After 26 days exposure to altitude (ranging from 2 000 m to 5 600 m, Karakorum Expedition) the same parameters were again evaluated after returning to sea level. These parameters were once again evaluated after 1 month and then again after 6 months.

Results: Sperm count was found to be lower immediately after returning to sea level (P = 0.0004) and again after a month (P = 0.0008). Normal levels were reached after 6 months. Spermatic motility (%) shows no reduction immediately after returning to sea level (P = 0.0583), whereas after 1 month this reduction was significant (P = 0.0066). After 6 months there was a recovery to pre-hypoxic exposure values. Abnormal or immature spermatozoa (%) increased immediately after returning to sea level (P = 0.0067) and then again after 1 month (P = 0.0004). After 6 months there was a complete recovery to initial values. The total number of motile sperm in the ejaculate was found to be lower immediately after returning to sea level (P = 0.0024) and then again after 1 month (P = 0.0021). After 6 months there was a recovery to pre-hypoxic exposure values.

Conclusion: Chronic hypoxia induces a state of oligospermia and the normalization of such seminological parameters at the restoration of previous normoxic conditions after 6 months indicate the influence of oxygen supply in physiological mechanisms of spermatogenesis and male fertility.

Keywords: male fertility, hypoxia, seminological parameters, high altitude

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