Space travel may damage sperm cells and cause infertility, according to a new study completed by
researchers from the University of Kansas. For the study, male rats were placed in a situation that
mimicked zero gravity. After being in these conditions, the rats still had a strong urge to mate, but they
were unable to produce functional sperm cells. While researchers do not know exactly what the results of
this animal study mean for human astronauts, Dr. Joseph Tash, the researcher who led the study, says
their discovery definitely raises concerns.
Dr. Parviz Kavoussi, a leading reproductive urologist from the Austin, Texas, area, agrees that astronauts
would be wise to take precautions to protect their fertility. “A number of health issues have previously
been identified in astronauts after missions in space. With regards to fertility, there is evidence that
microgravity environments have a negative effect on sperm production in animals, and there is concern
about space radiation’s impact,” he says. “NASA offers astronauts sperm cryopreservation prior to space
travel. I would recommend that they take advantage of this service so that they have a backup plan if they
do encounter difficulties with infertility.”
Even men who never leave the planet Earth can find their ability to father a child is compromised. Male
infertility can stem from a wide array of causes, including medical troubles like infections or structural
problems, environmental issues like heat or radiation, and lifestyle choices like smoking or alcohol use.
While the exact treatment depends on the individual patient’s issue, fertility specialists may recommend
lifestyle and medication changes or employ techniques like surgical corrections and sperm retrieval to
improve a man’s odds of successfully fathering a child.
A multi-award-winning physician and the editor-in-chief of the first textbook for clinical urologic
endocrinology, Dr. Kavoussi sees patients at Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine/Westlake IVF. He
is proud to be a part of the only private fertility center in the United States that has fellowship trained
specialists in both male and female infertility on its staff. Specializing in male infertility and sexual health,
he provides patients with a variety of treatments, including no-scalpel vasectomies, vasectomy reversals
and sperm retrievals.
To make an appointment for a personal infertility consultation with Dr. Kavoussi, contact Austin Fertility
and Reproductive Medicine/Westlake IVF at (512) 444-1414.