February 22, 2018
Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences J. Richard Pilsner is among the researchers featured in an article on the burgeoning field of sperm epigenetics appearing in the February 2018 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. The focus article explores current research trends on paternal environmental exposures and how they might affect the health of his unborn children.
“We’ve been hyper-focused on how the mother’s environment shapes the health of a developing kid while ignoring the other half of the equation,” Pilsner is quoted as saying. “But the father’s preconception exposures matter, too.”
Pilsner’s recent research examining phthalate levels on sperm epigenetics and reproductive success in humans is cited in the article. Pilsner and colleagues recently reported preliminary findings among couples seeking in vitro fertilization procedures at Baystate Medical Center’s fertility clinic which suggest that higher levels of phthalates in men’s urine are associated with lower-quality blastocysts, or early embryos. Further findings indicated that these exposures are also associated with sperm DNA methylation profiles in regions that code for embryonic growth and development, suggesting a plausible epigenetic connection that could affect the developing child.
The article notes that sperm epigenetic research is still in the early stages of development. Pilsner recently received a five-year, $2.26 million grant to extend and replicate his findings in an animal study, contributing, he hopes, to an increased understanding of a relatively little known line of study.
Environmental Health Perspectives is a monthly peer-reviewed journal of research and news published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and is one of the most highly ranked journals in environmental sciences.