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Authors C Avendano, A Mata, CA Sanchez Sarmiento, GF Doncel
Review Date Dec 2011
Citation Fertil Steril 2012;97:39-45.e2. Epub Nov 23 2011
The use of laptop computers wirelessly connected to local area networks (Wi-Fi) has increased dramatically in recent years. People using Wi-Fi may be exposed to radio signals. The use of portable computers (connected via Wi-Fi) on the lap exposes the genital area to radio frequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) and high temperatures.
It has been postulated that declines seen in male fertility over recent years may be related to various environmental factors, including RF-EMW. The effects of extremely low frequency magnetic fields may be associated with oxidative damage of cellular structures and molecules. Oxidative damage to spermatozoa could affect motility or damage DNA. Deleterious effects on spermatozoa from mobile phone use have been reported.
The possible effects of WiFi-connected laptops on sperm were investigated in this study.
To evaluate the effects of laptop computers connected to local area networks wirelessly (Wi-Fi) on human spermatozoa.
An in vitro study of semen samples from 29 healthy donors was conducted. Motile sperm were selected by ‘swim up’. Each sperm suspension was divided into two aliquots. One sperm aliquot (experimental) from each patient was exposed to an internet-connected laptop by Wi-Fi for 4 hours, whereas the second aliquot (unexposed) was used as control, incubated under identical conditions (including the same temperature) without being exposed to the laptop.
Sperm motility, viability and DNA fragmentation were evaluated after exposure.
Donor sperm samples, mostly normozoospermic, exposed ex-vivo during 4 hours to a wireless internet-connected laptop showed a significant decrease in progressive sperm motility and an increase in sperm DNA fragmentation. Levels of dead sperm showed no significant differences between the two groups.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to evaluate the direct impact of Wi-Fi connected laptop use on human spermatozoa. Ex vivo exposure of human spermatozoa to a wireless internet-connected laptop decreased motility and induced DNA fragmentation by a non-thermal effect.
The authors speculate that keeping a laptop connected wirelessly to the internet on the lap near the testes may result in decreased male fertility. Further in vitro and in vivo studies are needed to prove this contention.
Points to Note
- The data suggest that the use of a laptop computer connected wirelessly to the internet and positioned near the testes may decrease sperm quality.
- The potential effects of the heat produced by the laptop were controlled for in this study, as other studies have shown increased scrotal temperatures from laptop use.
- As this was an ex vivo study, the effects of laptop use on sperm in the body can only be speculative.
- The authors postulate that the effects seen were due to RF-EMW but they were not able to discount the possibility that it was the radiation from the laptop itself causing the effect.
- Further in vitro and in vivo investigations are required to confirm these findings and the postulated mechanism.