Yoga takes epigenetic route to rescue male infertility: Study

Hyderabad: Genetic system of organisms is heavily influenced and regulated by environmental factors. Unlike the DNA sequence, which an individual is born with, epigenetic changes are dynamic and reversible in response to the environmental influences.

Unhealthy lifestyle and social habits are known to have adverse effects on the sperm, resulting in a decline in male reproductive health in recent years. 

A collaborative effort from CCMB, Hyderabad, and AIIMS, New Delhi, has now shown that the traditional practice of yoga has positive effects on sperm quality and that these beneficial effects are correlated with epigenetic changes, DNA methylation, in the sperm. Yoga-based lifestyle interventions (YBLI) are increasingly being offered as an adjunct to modern medicine.

This pilot study, published in the journal Andrologia, offers a first of its kind analysis of the effect of YBLI in infertile men demonstrating reduction in seminal oxidative stress with improvement in sperm motility, and therefore its fertilizing potential, after the practice of yoga. 

YBLI in this study included physical movements and postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dhyana), practiced for 1 hr each day for 21 days. This led to improved sperm quality in the patients enrolled in the study. Using state of the art DNA sequencing analysis study demonstrated a resetting of the sperm methylome (pattern of chemical changes called DNA methylation) in the yoga practitioners.

The methylome, known to directly control the expression of genes, in this case is found to be associated with changes at nearly 400 genes, including several genes that are known play a role in male fertility, spermatogenesis and embryo implantation.

“The genes identified using the epigenomic approach in this study will be useful candidates for further focused investigations. As this pilot study was carried out on a small number of individuals, a larger scale investigation and further research on the effects of YBLI on male infertility will be necessary”

Dr. Rakesh Mishra, Director, CSIR-CCMB.

Sperm methylome alterations following yoga‐based lifestyle intervention in patients of primary male infertility: A pilot study. Shilpa Bisht, Sofia Banu, Surabhi Srivastava, Rashmi U. Pathak, Rajeev Kumar, Rima Dada, Rakesh K. Mishra. Andrologia.

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