New hope for male infertility

La Trobe researchers have put us one step closer to developing a new and effective treatment for male infertility

Significant findings from research co-led by Dr Cathryn Hogarth have put us one step closer to developing a new and effective treatment for male infertility.

Dr Cathryn Hogarth is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Biomedical Science at the La Trobe Rural Health School.

“Infertility is a common long-term consequence of severe or untreated epididymitis. Epididymitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the epididymis, the organ responsible for maturing and storing sperm,” says Dr Hogarth.

Dr Hogarth says that current treatments for epididymitis is only designed to clear the infection.

“Treatment does not fully restore epididymal function, so up to 40% of people with epididymitis are left with permanent tissue damage which can result in infertility,” she says.

“New and effective treatments that can restore function following epididymitis are absolutely necessary to prevent this cause of male infertility.”

Findings from one of Dr Hogarth’s recent studies could pave the way for the development of such a treatment.

“Retinoic acid, the  biologically active form of vitamin A, is essential for healthy sperm development and maturation,” explains Dr Hogarth.

“We found that when we block retinoic acid signals in the epididymis, there is a severe inflammatory reaction. This tells us that the retinoic acid signalling pathway could be a potential target for treatment.”

“Our next steps are to test whether synthetic forms of vitamin A are a viable treatment option for epididymitis and if fertility can be restored.”