Falzone N, Huyser C, Becker P, Leszczynski D, Franken DR. The effect of pulsed 900-MHz GSM mobile phone radiation on the acrosome reaction, head morphometry and zona binding of human spermatozoa. Int J Androl. Mar 7, 2010 Ahead of print.
Infertility affects approximately 15% of couples worldwide. Many cases of male infertility are attributed to abnormal morphology, delayed or no acrosome response or impaired sperm-zona binding. Results of several studies have suggested that exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF EMFs) can adversely affect human sperm quality.
The objective of this study was to examine the effect of RF EMF exposure on sperm head morphometry, the acrosome response and on the spermatozoa’s zona pellucid-binding capacity.
Semen samples were collected from 12 healthy non-smoking donors (average age 23±5 years). Duplicate control and RF-EMF-exposed test dishes were prepared simultaneously. Controls were placed in an incubator, and test dishes were exposed for 1 hour to 900 MHz GSM signal (SAR=2.0 W/kg) inside an RF-EMF chamber placed into the same incubator. Morphometric assessment was performed on slides prepared right after and 2 hours after exposure using computer-assisted sperm analysis. The acrosome reaction was assessed immediately after exposure, 2 and 24 hours after exposure using flow cytometry. Sperm-zona binding was assessed immediately after exposure using the hemizona assay evaluated by two independent observers.
Statistically significant reduction in all morphometric parameters (major axis, minor axis, area, perimeter and acrosome (%)) was observed after RF exposure. There was no significant difference in any parameter as a function of time after exposure. Flow cytometry did not reveal significant differences between exposed and control cells in the number of non-viable cells at any time point. There was no significant difference between exposed and control cells in the number of acrosome-reacted and acrosome-intact live sperms at any time point. There was a significant reduction in zona binding in exposed sperms compared with zona binding in controls.
Interpretation and Conclusion
These results indicate that exposure to RF-EMF can affect sperm fertilization potential. The authors point out, however, that these results were obtained in vitro and therefore they should not be directly extrapolated to an in vivo situation. Moreover, spermatozoa were exposed to the highest permissible power output (SAR of 2 W/kg), the level that would never occur in vivo from mobile phones operating in receiving mode.