Principal Investigator: Anne Grosen, MD
Immunosuppressive drugs have made living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) easier. But these powerful medications have their drawbacks, especially when it comes to potentially affecting future fertility. Complicating matters, IBD often strikes people during their key reproductive years. Patients’ fertility fears may dissuade them from taking effective medication that could help them to better manage their disease.
Methotrexate (MTX) is a commonly prescribed drug treatment for IBD. Linked to birth defects, though, it is not recommended for pregnant women. How the drug affects a man’s ability to start a family remains a mystery. Funded by a Digestive Health Foundation grant, Northwestern Medicine researchers led by visiting scholar Anne Grosen, MD, from Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, plan to shed light on the effects of this potent drug by examining several markers of male fertility, including sperm quality and reproductive hormones.
Dr. Grosen’s research team, which includes GI and fertility and reproductive medicine specialists, will focus on adult males (ages 18 to 45) who have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Seen by the IBD team at Northwestern Medicine, these individuals are either planning to start MTX treatment or are currently taking the drug for their disease. A healthy control group will participate in a separate study in Denmark and be used for comparative purposes.
By analyzing MTX metabolites and other biomarkers in blood and semen samples, the investigators hope to determine if MTX makes a clinically relevant impact on male fertility. Study findings of this trans-Atlantic collaboration have the potential to improve future patient care by allaying concerns about drug safety and family planning. As many male IBD patients and their spouses and/or partners often request information on the effect of medications on male fertility, results of this research could help to vastly improve patient counseling prior to MTX therapy.