Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How cellphones affect sperm

Cellphone radiation reduces the ability of human sperm to move spontaneously, a new Stellenbosch University study has found.

The research, which looked at the effects of cellphone radiation on human semen quality, and whether radio frequency-electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) could cause male infertility, established that while these waves had no effect on the viability of sperm cells, they significantly decreased sperm's motility (a biological term which refers to the ability of semen to move spontaneously and actively).

According to the lead researcher and head of medical physiology at Stellenbosch University, Professor Stefan du Plessis, researchers split each of the total 20 samples into three, then exposed the 60 samples to different frequencies.

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One sample was controlled, another was exposed to cellphones on stand-by mode, and the third to cellphones on talk mode.

About 25 percent of sperm cells that were exposed to talk-mode cells were found to have a decreased ability to swim, something that researchers described as a "challenge" during the natural fertilisation process.

"The exposure was done in vitro for about an hour. Interestingly, we found no changes in viability of the sperm cells that were exposed to the different frequencies. The exposure didn't kill the cells. However, there was a decrease in motility in those sperm cells that were exposed to the talk-mode waves," he said.

Du Plessis explained that while the study was still in its preliminary stages, and researchers could not prove that cellphone radiation could lead to infertility, the early results was interesting given the fact that the majority of males kept cellphones in their pockets.

More research was needed on why radiation reduced sperm movement. It was also yet to be established whether radiation caused any damage to the DNA of a sperm cell or alterations in spermatogenesis (sperm production).

"We need to look at reactive oxygen species production. During the process of sperm production, cells are vulnerable to any environmental insults such as temperature, exposure to chemicals and metals, as well as radiation.

"While the standby mode seemed to not have an effect on the viability of sperm, we are concerned about the effect that the talk-mode radiation might have on the quality of sperm, especially with the increasing use of new technology phones that have much higher frequency. The risk of talk-mode radiation is even more when using Bluetooth and hands-free devices, as the frequency emitted is likely to be absorbed by cells in the testes," Du Plessis warned.

While there was still debate on whether cellphone radiation caused infertility, he added that young people should be especially cautious of putting cellphones in close proximity to testes.

Taken from IOL-Technology and not edited.
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