[Frontiers in Bioscience 1, e78-86, August 1,1996]
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CAVEAT LECTOR



OXIDATIVE STRESS AND ROLE OF ANTIOXIDANTS IN NORMAL AND ABNORMAL SPERM FUNCTION

Suresh C. Sikka, Ph.D., HCLD

Department of Urology, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Received 05/30/96; Accepted 07/02/96; On-line 08/01/96

2. INTRODUCTION

Infertility has been a major medical and social preoccupation since the dawn of humanity. Unlike other civilizations, infertility in the early Egyptian society was not a divine punishment but was considered an illness which merited proper diagnosis and treatment. However, not much was known about the anatomy or physiology of the reproductive tract until von Leeuwenhoek invented the microscope and discovered the "spermatozoid" in 1677. Despite the enormous progress in research and reasoning, most of the blame for infertility, until recently, was placed on the female. Only during the last 15-20 years, advances in understanding of gonadal/sperm function and dysfunction led to a dramatic increase in our knowledge of male infertility. Defective sperm function is the most prevalent cause of male infertility and a difficult condition to treat (1).

Many environmental, physiological, and genetic factors have been implicated in the poor sperm function and infertility. Although techniques like intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) offer considerable promise to such male factor patients, the indiscriminate use of such assisted fertility treatments, especially when the etiology of sperm dysfunction is poorly understood is not warranted. Thus, it is very important to identify the factors/conditions which affect normal sperm function. Free radical-induced oxidative damage to spermatozoa is one such condition which is recently gaining a considerable attention for its role in inducing poor sperm function and infertility. Understanding of how such conditions affect sperm function will help designing new and effective treatment strategies.

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