THURSDAY, Sept. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Two new studies provide evidence that smoking can harm sperm - both in smoking men who may become fathers, and in sons born to women who smoked during pregnancy.
The research also suggests that both men and women who hope to conceive should kick the habit.
"The results of the present study suggest a negative biological effect of smoking on spermatozoa DNA integrity," said the lead author of one study, Dr. Mohamed E. Hammadeh, head of the assisted reproductive laboratory in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of the Saarland in Saar, Germany.
Research by Hammadeh and his colleagues showed that men who smoke heavily may experience fertility problems stemming from a drop in levels of a protein crucial to sperm development, as well as damage to sperm's DNA.
Another study suggests that women who smoke early in their pregnancy may ultimately compromise their sons' reproductive health.
Both studies are published in the Sept. 8 online issue of Human Reproduction.
In the first study, Hammadeh's team compared sperm from 53 heavy smokers (more than 20 cigarettes a day) against that of 63 nonsmokers.
After three to four days of sexual abstinence, a single semen sample was taken from all study participants, to measure levels of two forms of a specific type of protein found in sperm, called protamines. According to the researchers, protamines are key players in sperm development, helping to spur on the process by which chromosomes are formed and packaged during cell division.
Hammadeh and colleagues found that in the smoking group, one form of protamine appeared at levels that were 14 percent below concentrations observed in the sperm of nonsmoking men. This was enough to constitute a form of "protamine deficiency" and, in turn, raise risks for infertility among the smokers.
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