Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA)

Sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA)

The sperm chromatin structure assay (SCSA) is a new diagnostic tool that can detect sperm samples that have a high degree of DNA fragmentation (small breaks in the sperm chromosomes). Samples with a high percentage of DNA fragmented sperm (>30%) has been associated with a nearly four-fold reduction in term pregnancies. It’s also related to a doubling miscarriages. A male may have a good sperm count, good sperm motility, and normal sperm shape, but still exhibit a high degree of fragmentation. This could be related to a couple’s fertility problems. The SCSA may be recommended for certain patients, depending on their reproductive history. This assay is not a measure of the sperm’s ability to fertilize an egg.

The SCSA is capable of distinguishing normal sperm from those with fragmentation in their DNA. This test uses special stains and complex instrumentation (flow cytometer), and a laser beam to quantitate the percentage of sperm with intact vs. fragmented chromatin (DNA).

fertility diagram showing Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay

Thousands of sperm are analyzed, producing plots like the example below. This plot compares a sperm sample from a fertile individual with a patient/couple experiencing 16 miscarriages. The fertile sample has no fragmentation while the patient’s sample showed more than a third of the sperm with DNA fragmentation.

DNA Fragmentation index

Semen samples for the SCSA are collected in our clinic and sent to SCSA Diagnostics, Inc. We charge $200 for the test plus $50 for shipping and handling. Results are returned to us within 7-10 days. Your doctor will consult with you when we receive the report.

Visit SCSA for more information.

(quotes and graphics used with permission, SCSA Diagnostics, Brookings, SD.)