Research draws link between infertility and mobile phones

Friday, 16 September 2016

A team of researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON) have drawn a link between mobile phone radiation and a negative impact on sperm motility – the ability of sperm to swim – highlighting the potential danger of storing a mobile phone near male genitalia for prolonged periods.

The new research examined the effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR), which is produced by cell phones, on the male reproductive system, with results indicating consequences such as a decline in sperm movement and increases in DNA damage.

Lead author and UON PhD student Brendan Houston said, whilst there is existing research in this area, there is no clear understanding as to how this form of radiation influences male reproductive cells.

“Mobile phone use has become more and more popular over the years, meaning many of us are exposed to radiation every day. Whilst findings suggest it has a negative impact, we’re not sure exactly why.

“We wanted to consider any common observations that could provide insights on a potential mechanism. This area of research is controversial because the basic science is not well understood,” he said.

Now Mr Houston and his team have identified where further research is necessary, they have taken the next step to filling in the gaps.

“I’m now looking at trying to dissect how RF-EMR actually affects the male reproductive cells.

“We’re using a range of male germline cells to determine how they respond to RF-EMR. By looking at different parameters of stress on the cell, this will help us explain the changes.”

A UON Bachelor of Biotechnology graduate, Mr Houston intends to continue his work in the field of reproductive science as part of the ongoing pursuit to combat male infertility.

“I love my work in this area as I am constantly learning. Even though the job of a sperm seems simple, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome.

“Technically, all they have to do is deliver genetically in-tact information to the egg, but there is so much more to the story,” he said.

Mr Houston and his team reviewed 27 scientific studies investigating the effects of RF-EMR. Results found negative consequences from exposure were reported in 21 of the 27 studies.

Brendan Houston is a PhD student with UON’s Reproductive Science Group within the School of Environmental and Life Sciences. His paper is published in the journal of Reproduction with colleagues Professor Brett Nixon, Professor Bruce King, Dr Geoffry De Iuliis and Laureate Professor John Aitken.

Read the full paper here.

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