Common chemical exposure in men may bring health risks in offspring

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Researchers at Wayne State University have unveiled groundbreaking findings linking male exposure to PFAS chemicals with adverse health effects in their offspring.

The study, published in Environment International, investigated the influence of per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) on sperm methylation and the resulting changes in the gene expression of metabolic tissues like liver and fat in the next generation.

The research highlights the urgency of addressing PFAS contamination, particularly in Michigan where these chemicals have recently become a significant concern.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has started to regulate these substances under the Clean Water Act, setting standards that communities nationwide will need to meet.

PFAS are known to be associated with various chronic diseases, affecting inflammation and the immune system.

Michael C. Petriello, Ph.D., assistant professor at Wayne State’s Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Department of Pharmacology, emphasized the novel aspect of the study, which explores how paternal exposure can impact reproductive outcomes and the metabolic health of offspring.

J.Richard Pilsner, Ph.D., a professor at the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development, pointed out that while previous research has focused on maternal health impacts during pregnancy, this study sheds light on the significant role of paternal environmental health before conception.

His findings demonstrate that PFAS exposure in males can lead to changes in sperm that affect the health and development of their children.

The study specifically found that PFAS mixtures in adult male mice cause changes in sperm DNA methylation and alter gene expression in the liver and fat tissues of offspring in a sex-specific manner. These changes suggest that the effects of PFAS can be transmitted from one generation to the next through the father.

Highlighting the broader implications of this research, Dr. Pilsner expressed hope that the findings would enhance recognition of the importance of male health in reproductive outcomes.

He suggested that clinical practices could evolve to include advising potential fathers about the impact of their pre-conception health on their children.

Ezemenari M. Obasi, Ph.D., vice president for research at Wayne State, noted that this study not only impacts how individuals perceive environmental hazards but also how medical professionals might advise their patients in the future.

The research underscores Wayne State University’s commitment to improving public health and driving innovation through creative solutions that benefit both local communities and wider populations.

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The research findings can be found in Environment International.

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