Obesity is a metabolic disorder resulting from behavioral and heritable causes. Children of obese fathers are at higher risk of developing metabolic disease later in life, independent of the body weight of their mother, supporting the notion that paternal factors contribute to the inheritance of obesity and obesity-related traits.
Previous studies show that the availability of food to people living in a small Swedish village during famine correlated with the risk of their grandchildren developing cardiometabolic diseases. The nutritional stress of the grandparents was likely passed down via epigenetic marks, these can be chemical additions on protein that wrap up DNA, methyl groups that change the structure of DNA once attached, or molecules called small RNAs. Epigenetic marks can control how genes are expressed, and this has also been shown to affect the health of offspring in insects and rodents. Therefore, the lab hypothesized that weight loss remodels the epigenetic signature of spermatozoa in human obesity. The current study is the first epigenetic mapping of spermatozoa in obese men and shows a distinct epigenome that characterizes human obesity.
The current study compared specific epigenetic marks in the sperm of lean and obese men. Results show that while no differences were seen in the proteins that wrap up DNA, there were variations between the participants’ small RNAs as well as methylation of genes associated with brain development and appetite. The group also followed 6 men undergoing weight-loss surgery to see how it affected their sperm. Data findings show that an average of 5,000 structural changes to sperm cell DNA were observed from the time before the surgery, directly after, and one year later. The researchers note that further studies are needed to investigate what these differences mean and their effects on offspring, with early evidence showing that sperm carries information about a man’s health.
The team surmise that their findings could lead to changing pre-conception behaviour of the father, for example staying away from alcohol and pollutants. For the future, the researchers state that to learn more about the epigenetic-offspring connection they plan to begin embryonic research to study epigenetic differences from the sperm of men with various degrees of body weight.
Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.
Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.
Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio, BioPortfolio.com, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.
Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.
Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.
An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.