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Stress can have lasting effects on sperm and offspring

Stress can have lasting effects on sperm and offspring


Prolonged fear and anxiety caused by stressors (such as the current new crown epidemic) will not only damage a person's mental health, but may also have a lasting effect on a man's sperm composition, thereby affecting future generations. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine published the findings in the journal Nature Communications.

This study outlines a biological mechanism on how a father's experience under stress will affect fetal brain development in the womb. Studies have shown that the effects of paternal stress can be passed on to offspring through changes in extracellular vesicles that interact with mature sperm. Extracellular vesicles are responsible for transporting proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids between cells. They are produced in large numbers in the reproductive tract and play an integral role in sperm maturation.

There are many reasons why stress reduction is beneficial, especially now that our stress levels are high and will continue to be so in the coming months, said Dr. Tracy Bell, the study's corresponding author and pharmacology professor. . Proper management of stress can not only improve mental health and other stress-related diseases, but can also help reduce potential lasting effects on the reproductive system that may affect offspring. 

To investigate the new biological role of extracellular vesicles in transferring father's pressure to sperm, the researchers examined extracellular vesicles in mice treated with the stress hormone corticosterone. After treatment, the overall size of extracellular vesicles and protein and RNA content changed dramatically. When sperm interacted with these stress-affected extracellular vesicles before fertilization, born mouse pups showed significant changes in early brain developmental patterns, and the adult mice's response to their own stress was also comparable to the control group. obviously different.

To investigate whether human sperm are similar, researchers recruited students from the University of Pennsylvania, asked them to donate sperm every month (for six months), and completed a questionnaire about their stress status. They found that the levels of RNA in sperm of students who had experienced higher stress a few months ago changed significantly, and that of those who had little change in stress levels had little or no change in RNA content in sperm.

Dr. Bell said that Our research shows that if a father experiences long-term stress before pregnancy, the baby's brain will develop differently, but we still don't know what these differences mean. This long-term high level of stress can increase children's psychology Are the risks of health issues? Will stress and management help improve stress resilience? We don't know yet, but our data suggest that further research is needed. 

This study is a key step in understanding important mechanisms in the field of intergenerational epigenetics, which are essential to identifying early interventions to improve reproduction and early childhood development, said Albert Rees, Dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine. 

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