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Role of Very Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (VLC-PUFAs) in Sperm Function Using an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Model

Fellow: Pardis Hosseinzadeh, MD

Faculty Advisor: LaTasha Craig, MD


Objective: To determine if the levels of sperm very-long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFA) are correlated with sperm function using an IVF model.


Design: Prospective cohort

Subjects: 92 couples undergoing IVF treatment at a single academic fertility clinic

Exposure: We determined the levels of VLC-PUFA in total lipid isolated from sperm membranes using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry/mass spectrometry analyses from sperm samples provided on the day of the oocyte retrieval.

Main outcome measures: Fertilization rate, blastulation rate, good quality blastulation rate, biochemical and clinical pregnancy rate


Total VLC-PUFA percentage had a weak positive correlation with sperm concentration (Spearman r=0.14), and total motile count (r=0.12) confirming our finding in the prior studies, however the p-value did not reach the level of statistical significance likely due to small numbers. Hydroxylated VLC-PUFA percentage also showed a weak positive correlation with sperm concentration (Spearman r=0.17), total motile count (r=0.18), however. the p-value did not reach the level of statistical significance. Fertilization rate in our study showed a trend toward negative relationship to the levels of the total PUFAs [RR 0.78 (95% CI: 0.50, 1.23)] and hydroxylated VLC-PUFAs [RR 0.87 (95% CI: 0.61, 1.22)]. Blastulation rate as a marker of embryo development, showed a trend toward positive correlation with total VLC-PUFA levels [RR 1.16 (95% CI: 0.70, 1.93)], however the trend for association between the of level of hydroxylated VLC-PUFAs and bastulation rate was inverse [RR 0.66 (95% CI: 0.0.34, 1.27]. Good quality blastocyst development rate as a marker for embryo quality showed a trend toward positive association with total [RR 1.07 (95% CI: 0.51, 2.22)] and hydroxylated VLC-PUFAs [RR 1.05 (95% CI: 0.0.56, 2.00]. Biochemical and clinical pregnancy rates showed a trend toward positive association with the level of total VLC-PUFAs, while an inverse trend with the level of hydroxylated VLC-PUFAs were observed.


Our lipidomic analysis of sperm samples utilized for fertilization via IVF revealed that there was a trend toward positive correlation between the levels of the total VLC-PUFAs and biochemical and clinical pregnancy outcomes, suggesting that this class of fatty acids are important in sperm structure function in IVF. Th preliminary data from this study also suggests a potential predictive role for the levels of total and hydroxylated PUFAs as biomarkers of success in IVF treatments. Finding a biomarker of success, regardless of the biological explanation, has a potential for wide clinical application. Future multi-center prospective studies with larger sample size are required to further explore this relationship.

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