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From Past To Present: The Link Between Reactive Oxygen Species In Sperm And Male Infertility

Ana Izabel Silva Balbin Villaverde, Jacob Netherton, Mark A. Baker

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Reactive oxygen species (ROS) can be generated in mammalian cells via both enzymatic and non-enzymatic mechanisms. In sperm cells, while ROS may function as signalling molecules for some physiological pathways, the oxidative stress arising from the ubiquitous production of these compounds has been implicated in the pathogenesis of male infertility. In vitro studies have undoubtedly shown that spermatozoa are indeed susceptible to free radicals. However, many reports correlating ROS with sperm function impairment are based on an oxidative stress scenario created in vitro, lacking a more concrete observation of the real capacity of sperm in the production of ROS. Furthermore, sample contamination by leukocytes and the drawbacks of many dyes and techniques used to measure ROS also greatly impact the reliability of most studies in this field. Therefore, in addition to a careful scrutiny of the data already available, many aspects of the relationship between ROS and sperm physiopathology are still in need of further controlled and solid experiments before any definitive conclusions are drawn.