The word

Male fertility rates have plummeted. The NIH is spending millions to figure out why

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2021-09-27 13:30:08

The word "spermatogenesis" — the process by which sperm cells develop — is not likely to crop up in daily conversation. But the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is pouring $8 million dollars into a new study that aims to produce a clarified understanding of the term by investigating how the complex and mysterious process unfolds. 

Over the past four decades, male fertility rates have plummeted. This drop-off didn't happen dramatically, but gradually — at the rate of about 1% per year — and with frightening consistency. This rising infertility is not restricted to human males, but has been reported across both genders and other animals in the natural world. 

"We are all, if you will, going to hell in a hand basket at the same rate," said Dr. Shanna H. Swan, Ph.D, author of "Count Down: How Our Modern World is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race."

The goal of the NIH-backed study — a multi-center research project led by Dr. Paula Cohen, Ph.D, a professor of genetics at Cornell University — is to to uncover how changes in the discrete process of sperm development might be contributing to the decline. 

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