Friday, 22 June 2018

Fertility experts sceptical of claims laptop Wi-Fi can damage your sperm

fertility and sterilitySperm exposed to Wi-Fi emissions from laptops moved less and suffered DNA damage, researchers in Argentina have found in preliminary lab tests, but fertility experts around the world are sceptical the results mean anything for men.


Dr Conrado Avendano from the Nascentis Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Córdoba and colleagues collected semen samples from 29 healthy men and divided them into two groups.


They placed one-half of the sperm sample in petri dishes under a Wi-Fi connected laptop continuously downloading data from the internet for 4 hours; the other half were in another room away from any computers or electronic devices as a control.


The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, found the exposed sperm samples showed a significant decrease in progressive sperm motility – the ability to move spontaneously and actively – and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation.


They found 25 per cent of the exposed sperm were immobile, compared to just 14 per cent in the control samples and nine per cent of the exposed sperm showed DNA damage, compared to three per cent in the control samples.


However, the levels of viable sperm and dead sperm were the same in both groups.


“To our knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the direct impact of laptop use on human spermatozoa. Ex vivo [outside the body] exposure of human spermatozoa to a wireless Internet-connected laptop decreased motility and induced DNA fragmentation by a non-thermal effect,” the researchers concluded.


“We speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the Internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility. Further in vitro and in vivo studies are needed to prove this contention.”


The paper received worldwide media interest, but fertility experts were sceptical about the relevance of the results from a laboratory setting.


The president of the US Society for Male Reproduction and Urology, Dr. Robert Oates told Reuters Health he doesn't believe laptops are a significant threat to male reproductive health.


“This is not real-life biology, this is a completely artificial setting,” Dr. Oates said. “It is scientifically interesting, but to me it doesn't have any human biological relevance.”


UK fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC to be cautious about what the study may infer.


“Ejaculated sperm are particularly sensitive to many factors because outside the body they don't have the protection of the other cells, tissues and fluids of the body in which they are stored before ejaculation. Therefore, we cannot infer from this study that because a man might use a laptop with Wi-Fi on his lap for more than four hours then his sperm will necessarily be damaged and he will be less fertile.”


He said men should still be cautious about balancing a laptop on their thighs for hours on end.


“We know from other studies that the bottom of laptops can become incredibly hot and inadvertent testicular heating is a risk factor for poor sperm quality.”


Kenneth R. Foster, professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the design of the study and said he had a number of doubts about the exposure set-up.


The samples placed beneath the laptop were not exposed to the laptop’s Wi-Fi signals, because Wi-Fi antennas in the model used are mounted on the back surfaces of the lids, behind the laptop screens, he said.


“In other words, the exposed preparation was almost certainly not in the radiation field of the Wi-Fi antennas in the laptop,” Professor Foster said.


“The authors measured ‘RF emissions’ from the laptop using a broadband RF field meter. I think that the chances are very good that the meter was actually picking up RF noise from the motherboard, which was located immediately above the meter, and not from the Wi-Fi antennas.”


“…the study would need to be redone using a much better designed protocol, better statistical analysis, and certainly better RF dosimetry than was the case here, in order to draw any valid conclusions.”


Jean-Françis Doré and Marie-Christine Chignol of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Lyon say that the evidence presented “cannot support the claim that the observed effects are non-thermal and caused by exposure to a Wi-Fi radiofrequency electromagnetic field.”


In response to the criticisms Dr Avendano said: “We also truly believe we have been appropriately cautious in our conclusions, recommending further studies and stating possible caveats to our interpretation and experimental design.”


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