Sperm carries more than just a father’s genetics

father

Eat poorly, and your body will remember—and possibly pass the consequences onto your kids. In the past several years, mounting evidence has shown that sperm can take note of a father’s lifestyle decisions, and transfer this baggage to offspring. Today [July 26], in two complementary studies, scientists tell us how.

As sperm traverse the male reproductive system, they jettison and acquire non-genetic cargo that fundamentally alters sperm before ejaculation. These modifications not only communicate the father’s current state of wellbeing, but can also have drastic consequences on the viability of future offspring.

To solve the mystery, [Researcher Upasna] Sharma, who led the first of the two new studies, decided to track the composition of small RNAs within mouse sperm as they fled the testes and cruised through the epididymis. … Sharma was surprised to find that many small RNAs seemed to be discarded or destroyed upon entering the early epididymis; then, the newly vacated sperm reacquired epigenetic intel that reflected the father’s state of being, boasting a full set by the time they left the late epididymis.

Related article:  Searching for genetic fountain of youth? Study suggests we'll never find a 'longevity gene'

Mollie Manier, a professor who studies sperm genetics at George Washington University and was not affiliated with the study, praised the rigorous nature of this “very exciting” research. “These papers really add to our understanding of [how] dads can pass non-genetic information onto their kids,” she explains.

Read full, original post: Dads Pass On More Than Genetics in Their Sperm

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