Study Finds DHA Critical to Sperm Function

January 23, 2012

University of Illinois researchers say they have uncovered a role for omega-3 DHA in sperm health.

Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they have uncovered a role for omega-3 DHA in sperm health. The omega-3 fatty acid appears critical in the formation of the acrosome, an arc-like structure covering the head of a sperm cell, which houses and organizes enzymes that help sperm penetrate the egg.

Mice lacking the Fads2 gene (needed for DHA synthesis) were incorporated in the study. When the Fads2 gene was not present in a mouse, vesicles that form the acrosome could not fuse together, thus rendering mice without DHA infertile. Those mice were then deemed fertile once DHA was added to their diets.

Because DHA is present in high amounts in the testes, the brain, and the eyes, the researchers speculate whether DHA-related vesicle formation could have implications in the healthy operation of these latter two organs.

“It's logical to hypothesize that DHA is involved in vesicle fusion elsewhere in the body, and because the brain contains so much of it, we wonder if deficiencies could play a role, for example, in the development of dementia,” said lead researcher Manabu Nakamura, an associate professor of biochemical and molecular nutrition at the university. “Any communication between neurons in the brain involves vesicle fusion.”

Market Biosciences (Columbia, MD) provided DHA supplementation for the study, which has been published in the journal Biology of Reproduction.