Exposure to toxicants originated from (or used in) industrial processes has shown to contribute towards the global decrease of male fertility and reproductive health status. Considering that the risk of exposure in the modern world is increasing due to industrial growth, it became imperative to assess the sperm quality and function and overall reproductive health status of populations living in an industrial-related area, particularly if there is already a history of local contamination. To this extent, the city of Estarreja encloses the second largest chemical complex in Portugal and contamination of heavy metals has been reported. The present pilot study, therefore, intends to use a representative sample of Estarreja’s adult population and unveil the male reproductive phenotype signature induced by these toxicants. Importantly, parameters of sperm quality as concentration, motility and morphology will be evaluated along with more accurate functional indicators of sperm fertilizing ability such as mitochondrial function, chromatin/DNA integrity, acrosome status and viability, often disregarded in this type of studies. Furthermore, the function of accessory sex organs will be determined in seminal plasma given their importance in seminal fluid production and sperm maturation. A representative sample of adult men from the Center region of Portugal will be used as control group.
- Determine if in this industrial-related setting, men from the city of Estarreja exhibit a different reproductive phenotype than the control group. If so, this project will show the need of monitoring other related and relevant places in Portugal;
-Help determining toxicants’ reproductive signatures, as it is now known that different toxicants may induce specific reproductive dysfunction signatures,
- Starting point to more in depth studies that will allow to completely acknowledge and explore the mechanisms of action involved. Based on that, strategies can be developed to ameliorate/counteract such male reproductive dysfunction phenotype.