We turned to Alexia Chatziparasidou* MSc. PMI-RMP, Consultant Sr.Clinical Embryologist, Co-Founder of Embryolab Fertility Clinic, Co-Founder & Director of Embryolab Academy to explain
What is Azoospermia?
According to the World Health Organization, Azoospermia is defined as the absence of sperm in at least 2 semen samples after centrifugation.
Unfortunately, azoospermia is quite common, about 1 in 10 infertile men are found to have azoospermia, a ratio that corresponds to millions of men worldwide!
Until the recent past, a diagnosis of azoospermia was synonymous with infertility since no treatment or other method could help these men to obtain their own biological offspring. Their only options were adoption or the use of sperm donation.
What causes azoospermia?
The causes of azoospermia are very little known. With the exception of cases of secondary azoospermia that are the result of gonadotoxic medication (e.g. chemotherapy) or surgery, in only a small percentage of men with azoospermia the cause is identified and is often genetic.
Chromosomal defects (e.g. Klinefelter’s disease) or mutations in genes important for spermatogenesis (e.g. mutations in the cystic fibrosis gene and Y chromosome microdeletions) can cause azoospermia.
In all other cases, azoospermia is classified as being of unknown cause and is referred as idiopathic azoospermia.
Is azoospermia curable?
With the current data, azoospermia in very isolated cases can be cured, since in very few cases the causes are known.
As long as the causes of azoospermia remain unknown, it is impossible to design effective treatment protocols to restore fertility in these men.
Can a man with azoospermia obtain his own biological offspring?
Yes, the good news is that today a man with azoospermia can have his own biological offspring!
Thanks to the microfertilization method, which has been used since 1992, and in combination with special testicular biopsy techniques, men with azoospermia can, nowadays, undergo the testicular biopsy procedure and if the presence of testicular spermatozoa is detected, these can be used for fertilization through the microfertilization procedure. Our data shows that these sperm can support, fertilize and lead to healthy pregnancies!
Since 1995 when the 1st child was born from testicular sperm fertilization, there are millions of men who have been able to have their own biological offspring!
The children of science
These children who come into the world using testicular sperm are children of science. Thanks to her, the impossible is possible!
Recently, the science of genetics has been developed by leaps and bounds and for the first time we are very close to clarifying the genetic basis of azoospermia and to better understanding the mechanisms that control spermatogenesis and cause azoospermia. Such a development will open up new avenues in both the diagnosis and treatment of azoospermia.
An important scientific effort for azoospermia in Greece
Since 2019, a very important partnership of scientists from Embryolab Fertility Clinic, Embryolab Academy and BIOZ-Genetics and Biotechnology Laboratory, of the University of Thessaly is in progress. The aim of this ambitious and innovative research project, named Spermogene, is to clarify the genetic basis of male infertility in the Greek population. The first scientific data are already available, which shed light, among other things, on hitherto unknown pathways of azoospermia.
An optimistic future for azoospermia
With the help of new genetic and bioinformatics tools, in the near future the first diagnostic tools for azoospermia will be available and these will provide the basis for new therapeutic approaches aimed at reprogramming spermatogenesis and restoring fertility in men with azoospermia.
Prevention remains our best ally
Fertility testing for a man at a young age can prevent difficult situations and help the young man to take all preventive steps to protect his fertility.
The presence of a low sperm count at a young age can develop into azoospermia at an older age when the man is ready to start a family. A simple procedure such as preventive sperm cryopreservation can protect a man’s fertility and relieve him of the agony of a testicular biopsy.
Knowledge is power
The earlier a man checks his fertility with a simple sperm test, the easier it is to protect it if any infertility issue is detected.
*Alexia Chatziparasidou is a Clinical Embryology Consultant with experience of more than 45.000 cycles in Assisted Reproduction. Her scientific interests focus mainly on the application of modern methods of egg and embryo cryopreservation and treatment of male infertility and azoospermia. Since 2007 she has developed a special interest and expertise in the field of Total Quality Management (TQM) and Risk Management (RM) in Assisted Reproduction Units in the context of process optimization and in the implementation of risk avoidance and risk management strategies.
In 2004, Ms. Chatziparasidou founded Embryolab, a model Medical Assisted Reproduction Unit in Thessaloniki, Greece.
In 2007 she completed her expertise in the postgraduate program in Clinical Embryology at the University of Leeds and in 2008 she was certified by ESHRE as a Senior Clinical Embryologist.
In 2013 she co-founded the Embryolab Academy and organised a series of international workshops on the topics: Holistic Total Quality Management and Risk Management in Assisted Reproduction Units, Cryopreservation and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGT).
In 2020, he obtained by examination the international certification PMI-Risk Management Professional (PMI-RMP: PMI Risk Management Professional).
Ms. Chatziparasidou travels around the world as a guest speaker at conferences and trainer in hands on workshops, actively participates in research and educational projects involving the latest laboratory methods in the field of Assisted Reproduction and has authored a significant number of articles, publications and appendices.
Her most recent study is conducted in collaboration with the University of Thessaly and is entitled “The genetic basis of azoospermia-the mystery that needs to be unravelled”. The purpose of this study is to investigate the genetic basis of azoospermia and to lay the foundation for the development of personalized treatment options for men suffering from it.
She is a member of the European Society for Assisted Reproduction (ESHRE), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ALPHA) and the Panhellenic Association of Clinical Embryologists (PEKE), Ambassador of EURO-GTP II risk assessment tool for innovative applications.
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