Assessment of DNA integrity (COMET assay) in sperm cells of boron-exposed workers
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An extension of a male reproductive study conducted in a boric acid/borate production zone at Bandırma, Turkey, is presented. The relation between DNA-strand breaks (COMET assay, neutral and alkaline version) in sperm cells and previously described sperm quality parameters was investigated in boron-exposed males. A correlation between blood boron levels and mean DNA-strand breaks in sperm was weak, and DNA-strand breaks in sperm were statistically not different between control and exposed groups. Therefore, increasing boron exposures had no additional contribution in addition to already pre-existing DNA-strand breaks in the sperm cells. Weak but statistically significant correlations between DNA-strand breaks and motility/morphology parameters of sperm samples were observed in the neutral version of the COMET assay, while correlations between the same variables were statistically not significant in the alkaline version. A likely reason for these negative results, even in highly exposed humans, is that experimental exposures that had led to reproductive toxicity in animals were significantly higher than any boron exposures, which may be reached under realistic human conditions.
KeywordsBoric acid Borax Boron COMET assay Fertility Sperm parameters Male reproduction
The project was supported by the National Boron Research Institute (BOREN) and by the Eti Mine Works General Management (2008-G0207). The outline of the study and the processing of the raw data were reviewed by an external expert panel. The authors thank the reviewers, Professors G. Assennato, Bari, and M. Guillemin, Lausanne, for their scrutiny and dedicated effort.
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