Combating unexplained male infertility: diagnostics for the next generation

One in eight couples fails to conceive naturally (Ministry of Family Affairs, Germany) – worldwide, about 80 million couples are estimated to be involuntarily childless. Reproductive medicine offers these couples an alternative to resignation: Various therapy options with different strengths and weaknesses are available to help. The optimal balance between the probability of treatment success versus medical risk and costs is dictated by the patient’s specific cause of infertility.

For males, the semen analysis is central to the diagnostic workup of suspected infertility. However, for about 30 % of men, semen parameters are within normal limits, indicating that the underlying cause of infertility is an enigmatic sperm dysfunction. With male infertility remaining unexplained, affected couples are prone to experience failing assisted reproductive treatment – if the infertility, and therefore, the need for therapeutic intervention is identified at all.

In our workgroup, we are harnessing our scientific experience in reproductive physiology by developing novel laboratory tests to close this diagnostic gap.