The age of the parents can affect the health of children. This is a known fact, but until now researchers focused more on the age of mothers. However, lately, studies have began to analyze how the age of the fathers and the quality of their sperm can affect the offspring.
Damaging the DNA
It appears that there are a number of factors that can modify the DNA that is found in sperm. Obviously, age is the one that has the biggest impact, but it has been discovered that drinking and smoking can make epigenetic changes as well.
Analysing the age of sperm
Tim Jenkins at the University of Utah, as well as his team, will focus on the ageing factor.
They discovered changes at 147 points in genome by analysing the sperm of 350 men. With this data they managed to create a calculator that can analyze the sperm, its age and see if it has aged prematurely. The researchers also believe that they could learn how to reverse the process. “If you have a male in his 30s or 40s who has a sperm age in the 50s or 60s, you’d have to look at why that is. If you could change those factors, you could possibly reverse the clock,” says Michael Carroll at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK.
The researchers will also analyze the effects of other vices such as smoking. “The emphasis on smoking has always been on the mother’s side. But it’s becoming more evident that exposures in men can alter health. It’s not just about how sperm swim or what they look like – there are changes at the molecular level which can affect the offspring,” Carol explained.