J. Richard Pilsner

Richard Pilsner


B.A., Hamline University, 1995; M.P.H., Columbia University, 2003; Ph.D., Columbia University, 2007; Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar, University of Michigan, 2007-10

Area(s) of Specialization: 

Environmental Epigenetics, Sperm Epigenetics, Reproductive Health, Molecular Epidemiology

Research Description: 

It has been long recognized that maternal environmental exposures during pregnancy influence the health and development of offspring. However, little attention has been given to the contribution of paternal environmental exposures to offspring health and development, and more importantly, the pathway(s) by which this paternal transmission may occur. To answer these questions, research in the Pilsner lab addresses the interface of environmental toxicology, epidemiology, and reproductive health with a particular emphasis on epigenetic mechanisms (e.g., changes in gene expression that are independent of changes in DNA sequence). Specifically, the Pilsner lab aims to understand the role of sperm epigenetics as a pathway linking paternal environmental exposures to reproductive and offspring health. The Pilsner lab is currently investigating sperm epigenetics via two arms of research: our population-based cohort, the Sperm Environmental Epigenetics and Development Study (SEEDS) and in mice models. Both lines of research of supported by several grants from the National Institute of Health.

Publication List: 

PubMed Search Link

Key Publications: 

Wu H, Estill M, Shershebnev A, Suvorov A, Krawetz SA, Whitcomb BW, Sites C, Rahil T, and Pilsner JR. Preconception urinary phthalate concentrations and sperm DNA methylation profiles among men undergoing IVF treatment: a cross-sectional study. Human Reproduction. 2017 Sep 12:1-11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29024969

Wu H, Ashcraft L, Whitcomb BW, Rahil T, Tougais E, Sites CK, and Pilsner, JR. Parental contributions to early embryo development: influences of urinary phthalate and phthalate alternatives among couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization treatment. Human Reproduction. 2017 Jan;32(1):65-75. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27927842

Wu H, Hauser R, Krawetz SA, and Pilsner JR. Environmental susceptibility of the sperm epigenome during windows of male germ cell development. Current Environmental Health Reports. 2015 Dec;2(4):356-66. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362467

Wu H, de Gannes M, Luchetti G, and Pilsner JR. Rapid method for the isolation of mammalian sperm DNA. BioTechniques. 2015 June;58(6):293-300. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26054765

Press:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/style/2017/09/12/umass-study-adds-evidence-that-chemicals-environment-affect-men-sperm/yC1cuxbSpi0Q1nTQn6CoLJ/story.html