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Some fertility doctors across the country say they may see tens of thousands of infertile men within a few years. That's because the men's parents may have passed down a genetic problem.
Some reports say the first children born from infertile men through sperm injection and in vitro fertilization were born about 15 years ago. This has some people wondering if another wave of male infertility is on the way. Researchers say, when it comes to infertility, there's still a lot that we don't know.
University of Utah Andrology and IVF Laboratory Director Dr. Doug Carrell said, "About 40 percent of men that have infertility, we don't know what causes it, and most of those probably have some underlying genetic component."
Carrell says doctors are working on ways to fix the genetic flaws in the men to prevent them from being passed to the child.
"There are very, very few places that are really trying to do genetic therapy for any disease, let alone male infertility," he said.
While doctors can't say if most children of affected parents will have fertility issues, Carrell says there is one condition in which if the father has it, it will definitely be passed to his son.
"It's called a Y chromosome micro-deletion, where a very small region of the Y chromosome is deleted in those men," Carrell explained.
But the percentage of men who have this condition is very small, and treatment is very successful.
Reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Keith Blauer with Reproductive Care Center said, "Typically you would expect above 50 percent delivered pregnancy rates."
Blauer says if the man does have Y chromosome micro-deletions, there is usually enough sperm produced to inject into an egg. But will the second generation of the condition be any worse?
"Usually, it's going to be very similar to what we see in the father. It is possible to get worse. It's theoretically possible for it to correct itself, but that would be very unlikely," he said.
As for genetic mutations being passed from mother to daughter, Blauer says there aren't any conditions that guarantee infertility. But he says a genetic mutation called balanced translocations can increase the odds of problems.
"Women can certainly have genetic abnormalities that often times show up as reproductive pregnancy loss with multiple miscarriages," Blauer said.
But he says treatment can help women overcome this problem, too.