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Unwanted childlessness is a growing problem with which up to 20% of all couples in reproductive age are confronted temporarily or long-term. Infertility may be caused by antibodies against various tissues and cells that are essential for reproduction. In 20% of cases of immunologically mediated fertility disorders, anti-spermatozoa antibodies are detected (autoantibodies in men or alloantibodies in women). These antibodies primarily impair the mobility of the spermatozoa through surface binding and through agglutination processes.
Antibodies against ovarian antigens can be detected in women with primary ovarian insufficiency and after repeated in vitro fertilisation. The autoantibodies are directed against various ovarian structures and inhibit the maturation of the egg and its interaction with spermatozoa. Target antigens are steroid-producing enzymes – especially in the theca interna cells – and the zona pellucida.
The IIFT: Spermatozoa and the IIFT: Ovary can detect serum antibodies against spermatozoa and ovarian antigens, respectively, using indirect immunofluorescence. By using both tests, possible autoimmune-associated fertility disorders of both partners can be reliably identified.