Another Male Fertility Test is coming to Market: The Episona SEED Test

Episona, an “epigenetics data” company  is a bringing a new male fertility test to market.  The test is hoped to provide additional useful information in the evaluation of the male fertility patient in addition to and beyond the information a semen analysis provides.  

Epigenetics refers to heritable changes, not in DNA but rather in gene “expression”.  Epigenetics therefore refers to anything other than DNA that can influence an organism’s development.     Known consequences of epigenetic changes include change in cancer risk, mental retardation disorders such as Angelman and Prader-Willi syndromes, autoimmunity disorders such as Lupus, Neuropsychiatric disorder such as Alzheimers as well as risk for autism.  

Epigenetic change can be a normal and natural occurrence but can also be influenced by endogenous as well as exogenous factors.     These factors can include, age, environment, lifestyle and disease.   Concrete examples include smoking, obesity, malnutrition, extreme stress or sleep deprivation.   Several mechanisms have been identified as contributing to epigenetic change including:   DNA methylation, histone modification, chromatin remodeling and non-coding RNA, all of which can play a role in initiating and sustaining epigenetic changes.    Of these mechanism, DNA methylation is the most broadly studied  mechanism.

DNA methylation  refers to the addition of “methyl groups” to specific segments of DNA.  When this happens to a gene “promoter” the typical effect is to turn off transcription of that gene.

Episona is bringing their product to market Seed in collaboration with MDx, a company that uses DNA methylation testing to predict the presence of cancer.   Episona’s product examines over 480,000 regions on sperm DNA for abnormal methylation at different gene sites important to fertility.  Seed is the first product on the market to evaluate epigenetic changes in DNA to predict the risk for male factor infertility as defined by the ability of a sperm to fertilize and egg and also as being able to predict poor embryo development. 

Some early concerns:

It is not clear whether  SEED results vary result to result over time.  It is also not clear (as of now) if lifestyle or other changes can affect results such as improving diet, stopping smoking, getting sleep, etc.

New tools for the diagnosis of male infertility such as the Androvia Cap Score (discussed in a prior blog) and the Episona Seed test are encouraging developments and I am hopeful they will both serve to benefit my patients.

You Might Also Enjoy...

The Signs of Male Infertility

The decision to grow your family is an exciting one. But if you and your partner find out that having a baby isn’t as simple as you thought, it can be frustrating. Learn to recognize the signs of infertility so you can get the treatment you need.

Understanding Testicular Sperm Extraction

Testicular sperm extraction can be a successful fertility treatment for men, whether they’re facing infertility or they previously had a vasectomy. If you’re infertile but you hope to father a child, it’s time to learn more about this microsurgery.

Erectile Dysfunction or Normal Aging?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects millions of men, and it gets increasingly common with age. But is it an unavoidable part of getting older? Learn more about the signs of ED and how treatment could enhance your sex life, no matter your age.

Recovering from a Vasectomy: What to Expect

Are you considering a vasectomy? It’s a safe and effective form of birth control, but the thought of undergoing surgery is enough to make anyone nervous. Learn what it’s like to recover from a vasectomy.

Types of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones range in size, location, and mineral makeup, but they all have one thing in common: They can be very painful. Dr. Seaman discusses the common types of kidney stones.

Common Signs of Low Testosterone

As you get older, your testosterone level naturally decreases. But when it drops too far, you might notice unpleasant symptoms like low sex drive and loss of muscle mass. Learn to recognize the signs of low testosterone.