By Dr. Sebastiana Pappalardo
Numerous studies reveal that exposure to cell phones, microwave ovens, laptops or Wi-Fi produces deleterious effects on the testicles, which can affect sperm count, morphology, motility, an increase in DNA damage, causing genomic instability, as well as disruptions of the functions of some proteins, hormones and antioxidant enzymes. These effects have been found to be responsible for infertility due to excessive ROS production in exposed cells. Studies suggest that anomalies reported due to RF-EMF exposure depend on physical parameters such as duration of exposure, distance to the source of radiation, power density and depth of penetration. Current studies are unable to suggest a true mechanism on how RF-EMF radiation affects the male reproductive system. Electrosmog pollution is constantly increasing and therefore more health problems could be expected including an increase in male infertility rates due to this type of radiation. On the other hand, the possible protective effects of various antioxidants should be clarified.
Non-ionizing radiations differ in two forms: a) low frequency electromagnetic fields (ELF) or power line and b) radio frequencies (RF)) EMF radio waves which represent only a part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The Figure shows the various sources of exposure to the radio frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) that influence sperm parameters and biological effects on the testicular organ and brain.
The effects on reproduction are of increasing concern because the number of people exposed to Environmental radiation is increasing exponentially. The possible mechanisms by which radiation interacts with male reproductive organs are not well known.
Many studies are evaluating the effects of non-ionizing radiation such as RF-EMF on male fertility. This includes the frequencies used for cell phones, laptops, computers, microwave ovens and other higher frequency ranges; The amount of absorption of non-ionizing radiation depends on many factors such as the frequency, intensity, polarization and duration of exposure and, above all, the position of the devices during use.
There has been an association with male infertility for the devices that use RF-EMF to work has been reported and this type of radiation is pervading the environment and at this point we talk about electro-pollution which adds to other environmental pollutants such as (air, water, soil, toxic metals, endocrine disruptors ).
The damage from radiation exposure is the result of the triggering of DNA alterations and of chromosomal abnormalities. The most radiosensitive organ reported is the male testicle with the germinal epithelium more sensitive to radiation exposure than other cells. sperm count, motility, vitality and morphology and a significant increase in DNA fragmentation that could contribute to male infertility. Therefore exposure to RF-EMF could induce DNA damage due to increased oxidative stress, which can accelerate the death of sperm cells and can trigger testicular carcinogenesis.
EMF energy is not sufficient to directly damage DNA, therefore indirect mechanisms have been proposed, such as the hypothesis of free radicals. Physical and biological factors, which determine the radio-sensitivity of cells, directly or indirectly participate in the formation of free radicals by increasing ROS levels, which are a DNA damage factor to explain the damage induced by EMF. When a body or a biological tissue is exposed, the RF energy is dispersed and attenuated as it penetrates the tissues of the body. The problem is the depth of penetration, the higher the absorption rate of the radiation emitted by the mobile phone, the more it is absorbed inside the fabric when using electromagnetic devices.
The testes are very sensitive to these radiations due to the development and maturation processes of the sperm that take place in the testicles. It is also known that the development phase of the brain and testicles is very sensitive to radiation, which can cause serious damage in the form of genotoxic effects.
However, in addition to exposure to electromagnetic waves, there are numerous other factors such as sperm quality, sperm count, motility and morphology deteriorate with increasing age and lifestyle factors such as the consumption of alcohol, cigarette smoking that can affect fertility patterns in both men and women.
Exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields from cell phones or other microwave sources adversely affects the male fertilizing potential of sperm
The link between RF-EMF exposure and testicular pathologies and the reduction of sperm quality is most likely stress oxidative due to the increase in the levels of free radicals or superoxide anion since a decrease in sperm motility and viability is triggered by the increase in superoxide anion concentrations (• O 2 -). Free radicals oxidize the membrane phospholipids in a way extracellular, causing reduced vitality and reduced fluidity of the membrane with reduced motility.
Any serious change in the structure of the spermatozoon (head: nucleus, acrosome; central part: mitochondria; flagellum) leads to a reduction in the number of spermatozoa, a reduction in motility and finally sterility.
Oxidative stress is a condition in which the natural balance between oxidants and antioxidants is derailed towards an excessive amount of oxidants compared to antioxidants. This condition leads to biological damage to cells, tissues and organs.
Although seminal plasma has a high capacity of endogenous antioxidants in order to protect sperm from oxidative damage, cell phone exposure leads to the induction of oxidative stress through the generation of ROS in the plasma membrane of spermatozoa
Small changes in the ROS level, which become cytotoxic when increased, can play an important role in sperm capacity, acrosomal reaction and oocyte binding.
Mitochondria (cell energy system) / in spermatozoa constantly provide energy for the motility of spermatozoa, any interruption of their function can significantly increase the production of mitochondrial ROS, thus influencing the motility of spermatozoa, an increase in the production of mitochondrial ROS leads to DNA fragmentation, and sperm motility is directly associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, defects in the mitochondrial ultrastructure of spermatozoa could be associated with reduced sperm motility in humans
This is why it is important to protect cells from free radical attacks by removing these highly reactive molecules with antioxidants.
Infertile men significantly increased seminal ROS levels, as well as a reduction in antioxidant capacity compared to fertile controls. ROS formation can affect several enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) or glutathione peroxidase (GPx), which are found in semen and protect sperm from ROS assault. There was a decrease in glutathione and superoxide production after exposure to RF-EMF at different frequency and power levels, in which the reduced glutathione level during sperm production correlated with the interruption of the integrity of the sperm membrane due to induced oxidative stress.
RF-EMF exposure also adversely affects the reproductive endocrine system, can alter the production of gonadal sex steroids, causing changes in the reproductive cycle, can affect the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone, growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, FSH and LH in the pituitary gland. Therefore, any decrease in the level of FSH can adversely affect spermatogenesis. On the other hand, LH stimulates Leydig cells to produce testosterone; therefore a decrease in testosterone level can influence sexual differentiation in the fetus and spermatogenesis in adults. FSH stimulates Sertoli cells, thereby activating the seminiferous tubules, causing sperm production and the conversion of testosterone into estradiol.
How to try to protect yourself
The extracts of melatonin, N-acetyl-cysteine and green tea or leaves of medicinal plants have antioxidant properties to protect cells from damage.
The melatonin has antioxidant properties, protects cells by reducing oxidative damage induced by electromagnetic fields, also it prevents a potential decline in mitochondrial membrane and protects the membrane lipids, the nuclear and mitochondrial DNA acting as a detoxifying ROS
The green teait is a rich source of polyphenolic compounds, it shows promising antioxidant effects, it has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, it improves the quality of male and female gametes, it also has antiproliferative, anti-mutagenic and anti-bacterial properties. These polyphenols are potentially powerful for inhibiting ROS formation and have a preventive role against RF radiation. Daily consumption of green tea extract could also protect the cardiovascular system and lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Numerous studies reveal that exposure to cell phones, microwave ovens, laptops or Wi-Fi produces deleterious effects on the testicles, which can affect sperm count, morphology, motility, an increase in DNA damage, causing genomic instability, as well as disruptions of the functions of some proteins, hormones and antioxidant enzymes. These effects have been found to be responsible for infertility due to excessive ROS production in exposed cells. Studies suggest that anomalies reported due to RF-EMF exposure depend on physical parameters such as duration of exposure, distance to the source of radiation, power density and depth of penetration.
Electrosmog pollution is constantly increasing and therefore more health problems could be expected including an increase in male infertility rates due to radiation. On the other hand, the possible protective effects of various antioxidants should be clarified.
Current studies seek to further investigate the mechanism of action of RF-EMF radiation in influencing the male reproductive system and the possible protective effects to be initiated, also and above all with a more awaited and aware lifestyle, also in consideration of the fact that it is very difficult now to do without all those devices that emit electromagnetic waves.
Dr. Sebastiana Pappalardo
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