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Health depends on dad's sperm

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Abstract

We now have evidence that chemical gene tags in sperm affect the next generation

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... Teperek et al. (2016) showed for the first time that histone modifications in sperm change gene expression in embryos and are required for healthy offspring development. They compared the development of frog embryos by experimentally removing epigenetic marks at fertilization in one group and found that removing these epigenetic changes led to abnormal gene expression in the embryo, followed by less efficient development to the swimming tadpole stage (Teperek et al., 2016;Thomson, 2016). Ciabrelli et al. (2017) likewise showed that, in Drosophila fruit flies, epigenetic alterations in histone H3 Lys27 are transmitted to future generations, expressing as red eye color phenotype, and Klosin, Casas, Hidalgo-Carcedo, Vavouri, & Lehner (2017) showed that histone modifications caused by environmental conditions (temperature change) persisted for 14 generations of nematode worms and were inherited through both eggs and sperm. ...
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Background: For decades, economists and sociologists have documented intergenerational transmission of socioeconomic disadvantage, demonstrating that economic, political, and social factors contribute to 'inherited hardship'. Drawing on biological factors, the developmental origins of adult health and disease model posits that fetal exposure to maternal prenatal distress associated with socioeconomic disadvantage compromises offspring's neurodevelopment, affecting short- and long-term physical and mental health, and thereby psychosocial standing and resources. Increasing evidence suggests that mother-to-child influence occurs prenatally, in part via maternal and offspring atypical HPA axis regulation, with negative effects on the maturation of prefrontal and subcortical neural circuits in the offspring. However, even this in utero timeframe may be insufficient to understand biological aspects of the transmission of factors contributing to disadvantage across generations. Methods: We review animal studies and emerging human research indicating that parents' childhood experiences may transfer epigenetic marks that could impact the development of their offspring independently of and in interaction with their offspring's perinatal and early childhood direct exposures to stress stemming from socioeconomic disadvantage and adversity. Results: Animal models point to epigenetic mechanisms by which traits that could contribute to disadvantage may be transmitted across generations. However, epigenetic pathways of parental childhood experiences influencing child outcomes in the next generation are only beginning to be studied in humans. With a focus on translational research, we point to design features and methodological considerations for human cohort studies to be able to test the intergenerational transmission hypothesis, and we illustrate this with existing longitudinal studies. Conclusions: Epigenetic intergenerational transmission, if at play in human populations, could have policy implications in terms of reducing the continuation of disadvantage across generations. Further research is needed to address this gap in the understanding of the perpetuation of compromised lives across generations.
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