Sperm telomere length in donor samples is not related to ICSI outcome



Variations in sperm telomere length (STL) have been associated with altered sperm parameters, poor embryo quality, and lower pregnancy rates, but for normozoospermic men, STL relevance in IVF/ICSI is still uncertain. Moreover, in all studies reported so far, each man’s STL was linked to the corresponding female partner characteristics. Here, we study STL in sperm donor samples, each used for up to 12 women, in order to isolate and determine the relationship between STL and reproductive outcomes.


Relative STL was determined by qPCR in 60 samples used in a total of 676 ICSI cycles. Univariable and multivariable statistical analyses were used to study the STL effect on fertilization rate; embryo morphology; biochemical, clinical, and ongoing pregnancy rates; and live birth (LB) rates.


The average STL value was 4.5 (relative units; SD 1.9; range 2.4–14.2). Locally weighted scatterplot smoothing regression and the rho-Spearman test did not reveal significant correlations between STL and the outcomes analyzed. STL was not different between cycles resulting or not in pregnancy and LB (Mann-Whitney U test, p > 0.05). No significant effect of STL on reproductive outcomes was found, with the OR for each unit increase in STL (95% CI) of 0.94 (0.86–1–04), 0.99 (0.9–1.09), 0.98 (0.89–1.09), and 0.93 (0.8–1.06) for biochemical, clinical, and ongoing pregnancy and LB, respectively. The multilevel analysis confirmed that the effect of STL on fertilization; biochemical, clinical, and ongoing pregnancy; and LB was not significant (p > 0.05).


After addressing STL independently from female variables, results show that STL measurement is not useful to predict reproductive outcomes in ICSI cycles using donor semen.

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The authors wish to thank Francesc Figueras and Désirée Garcia for the statistical analysis support.


This work was supported by the intramural funding of Clinica EUGIN and by the Secretary for Universities and Research of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge of the Government of Catalonia (GENCAT 2015 DI 049) to M. T-M. and by Erasmus+ Programme to E.B.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rita Vassena.

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Ethical approval

Permission to conduct this study was obtained from the local Ethical Committee for Clinical Research. All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committees and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration, as revised in 2013.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Electronic supplementary material

Supplementary Figure 1

Correlation between STL (RU) and sperm concentration (million/mL) (A), sperm motility (% A + B) (B) and sperm donor age (years) (C). n = 60 samples. (GIF 18 kb)

Supplementary Figure 2

Locally Weighted Scatterplot Smoothing (LOWESS) regression of STL (RU) against embryo morphological score (A), fertilization rate (B), abnormal fertilization rate (C), pregnancy rates (biochemical (D), clinical (E), and ongoing (F)), and live birth rate (G). (GIF 97 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

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Supplementary Table 2

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Supplementary Table 3

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Torra-Massana, M., Barragán, M., Bellu, E. et al. Sperm telomere length in donor samples is not related to ICSI outcome. J Assist Reprod Genet 35, 649–657 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10815-017-1104-2

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  • Embryo morphology
  • Sperm telomere length
  • Live birth