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Does dad matter? New study looks at his environmental exposure in reproductive success
Date:6/11/2014

yer of information that can be inherited on top of genetic information that could influence the health and development of future generations. Unlike the genetic code, the epigenome is highly dynamic and can be shaped by environmental exposures. We're excited to be among the first to be looking at how paternal environmental exposure might affect sperm epigenetics and subsequent embryo development and other health endpoints in humans."

"There are certain times during development where we are more susceptible to environmental exposures. For example, epigenetic reprogramming, a process of erasing and remodeling epigenetic marks, is essential for sperm maturation and represents a critical window of susceptibility to environmentally-induced epigenetic errors that, in turn, may influence reproductive health."

As sperm mature over several weeks, this epigenetic reprogramming results in a compact nucleus that is essential for fertilization. Pilsner hypothesizes that exposure to certain plastics such as phthalates and other chemicals during this reprogramming event is associated with changes in methylated tags on the sperm's DNA.

Supported by an early career research grant from the National Institutes of Health, Pilsner is collaborating with Dr. Cynthia Sites, director of the in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinic at Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass., to conduct this research. His study is recruiting 250 couples through the clinic, where husbands who hope to become fathers provide routine sperm samples. The researchers will measure phthalates in the men's urine sample, then perform DNA methylation analyses on sperm cells and look for a statistical association between these measures as well as sperm quality and embryo development.

"We plan to measure eight different phthalates to examine the father's environmental health impact on a couple's reproductive success, while future aims will also include their child's health," he adds.
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Contact: Janet Lathrop
jlathrop@admin.umass.edu
413-545-0444
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Source:Eurekalert  

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