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Fish Sperm Viability as an Indicator of Environmental Pollution.

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Mapping the makings of fish

European authorities are increasing concerned over the decline in male fertility, which over the years has lead to an increase in the study of environmental pollution and its effects on sperm motility. Interesting studies with fish sperm may indicate the precise impact of environmental pollutants.


What is the specific nature pollution has on fertility? How widespread are these effects? In trying to answer these questions, previous sperm studies undertaken in mammalian animals had highlighted the possible estrogenic influence pollution may have upon sperm cells. Toxins such as mercury (though not limited to) had been shown to have a direct bearing on the flagella of sperm, impacting their ability to fertilise. However, no study to date has linked the exact extent pollution has had on the depreciating sperm motility of fish. Current fish sperm studies, using electron microscopic methods have been undertaken to provide more detailed data on the role of pollutants on fertility. Fish sperm, provides an easier study than do mammalian sperm samples because fish sperm retain motility only minutes after their contact with water and hence are a rapid and reliable means to gain quantitative data on pollution's effects. However, constructing a methodology to ascertain motility had its difficulties, because of the morphological differences between fish and mammalian sperm. Using CASA – a Computer Assisted Sperm Analysis measurement system- along side an Automated Sperm Morphology Analysis (ASMA), accurate detail was provided and the effects of aquatic pollution on sperm motility has, as a consequence of this project, been well documented with the end result that an effective methodology based on these two processes and capable of sperm morphology analysis, detailed standards for sperm motility measurement as well as cryopreservation techniques. Both in vivo and in vitro analysis of pollution can be ascertained as to their effects on sperm quality. Having provided an alternative means other than complex and highly evolved reproductive endocrine studies to map fertility and environmental pollution, this methodology should dramatically increase our understanding of these matters and feasibly assist in bringing a viable, economic solution based on more informed answers.

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