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BioMed Research International
Volume 2016, Article ID 9540142, 11 pages
Review Article

An Update on Oxidative Damage to Spermatozoa and Oocytes

Department of Medical Biosciences, University of the Western Cape, Robert Sobukwe Road, Bellville 7530, South Africa

Received 4 November 2015; Revised 28 December 2015; Accepted 11 January 2016

Academic Editor: Monica Muratori

Copyright © 2016 Chinyerum S. Opuwari and Ralf R. Henkel. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


On the one hand, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are mandatory mediators for essential cellular functions including the function of germ cells (oocytes and spermatozoa) and thereby the fertilization process. However, the exposure of these cells to excessive levels of oxidative stress by too high levels of ROS or too low levels of antioxidative protection will render these cells dysfunctional thereby failing the fertilization process and causing couples to be infertile. Numerous causes are responsible for the delicate bodily redox system being out of balance and causing disease and infertility. Many of these causes are modifiable such as lifestyle factors like obesity, poor nutrition, heat stress, smoking, or alcohol abuse. Possible correctable measures include foremost lifestyle changes, but also supplementation with antioxidants to scavenge excessive ROS. However, this should only be done after careful examination of the patient and establishment of the individual bodily antioxidant needs. In addition, other corrective measures include sperm separation for assisted reproductive techniques. However, these techniques have to be carried out very carefully as they, if applied wrongly, bear risks of generating ROS damaging the germ cells and preventing fertilization.