Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Dad’s phthalate exposure, reproductive success

Date:
June 11, 2014
Source:
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Summary:
A new study, among the first in humans, is underway to investigate whether phthalate (plastics) levels in expectant fathers have an effect on the couples’ reproductive success, via epigenetic modifications of sperm DNA. Phthalates are detectable in nearly 100 percent of the U.S. population, and phthalate exposure, known to disrupt endocrines, is associated in human studies with changes in semen quality, androgen levels, birth outcomes and offspring neurodevelopment, but a mechanism has not been clearly identified.

This study 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.
Credit: © Yeko Photo Studio / Fotolia

A new three-year, $440,000 study led by environmental health scientist Richard Pilsner at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is now underway to investigate whether phthalate levels in expectant fathers have an effect on the couples' reproductive success, via epigenetic modifications of sperm DNA. Phthalates are compounds found in plastics and personal care products that are estimated to be detectable in nearly 100 percent of the U.S. population.

Related Articles


Pilsner and colleagues will examine the possible influence of paternal phthalate exposure on sperm quality and embryo development and whether DNA methylation in sperm cells may be a pathway by which a father's exposure influences these endpoints. The new study is among the first to investigate the influence of phthalate on sperm epigenetics in humans.

Pilsner says, "What we're asking, basically, is whether dad's environmental health contributes to reproductive success, and if so, how is that transmitted to offspring?"

Unlike genetic mutations that affect DNA and the genome, epigenetic markers turn genes on and off to regulate cell processes, which if altered may lead to disease, he explains. If the genome and DNA are like computer hardware, as others have described it, the epigenome is like software, running programs telling genes what to do. Environmental exposures such as smoking, air pollution and metals have been linked to epigenetic changes associated with health risks. DNA methylation is one type of epigenetic mechanism and can be assessed by high-throughput analyses.

Phthalate exposure, known to disrupt endocrines, is associated in human studies with changes in semen quality, androgen levels, birth outcomes and offspring neurodevelopment, but a mechanism has not been clearly identified, Pilsner says.

He adds, "Until now, no one has investigated the sperm epigenome in the context of environmental exposures. Now we know there is this additional layer 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. "There have been some human studies of how mothers' exposure to various environmental agents affects the couple's success in conceiving a child and on the child's health. But until now, few birth cohorts have investigated the paternal environmental contribution to reproductive success and child's health and development. We want to change that."

Pilsner and Sites' work will also archive samples for future studies of other potential endocrine disrupting chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Massachusetts Amherst. "Dad’s phthalate exposure, reproductive success." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611151111.htm>.
University of Massachusetts Amherst. (2014, June 11). Dad’s phthalate exposure, reproductive success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611151111.htm
University of Massachusetts Amherst. "Dad’s phthalate exposure, reproductive success." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611151111.htm (accessed November 27, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Experimental Ebola Vaccine Shows Promise In Human Trial

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — A recent test of a prototype Ebola vaccine generated an immune response to the disease in subjects. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) — The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins