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3 June 2007
Mutated DNA In Sperm Can Cause Genetic Damage In Offspring
by George Atkinson

A worrying new investigation in the journal Cancer Research suggests that children may inherit genetic damage from a father who smokes. Using mice, the Canadian researchers behind the study have demonstrated that smoking can cause changes in the DNA sequence of sperm cells, alterations that could be inherited by offspring.

Lead researcher, Health Canada's Carole Yauk, explained that male germline mutations (mutations in the DNA of sperm), if inherited, can cause irreversible changes in the genetic composition of off-spring. "We have known that mothers who smoke can harm their fetuses, and here we show evidence that fathers can potentially damage offspring long before they may even meet their future mate," said Yauk.

Yauk's work focused on the spermatogonial stem cells of mature mice that had been exposed to cigarette smoke for either six or 12 weeks.

They observed alterations in a specific stretch of DNA, called Ms6-hm, which contained nearly one-and-a-half times as many mutations as that of non-smoking mice at six weeks, and 1.7 times that of non-smoking mice at 12 weeks. "This suggests that damage is related to the duration of exposure, so the longer you smoke the more mutations accumulate and the more likely a potential effect may arise in the offspring," Yauk explained.

Previous studies have shown that Ms6-hm is sensitive to damage from radiation, mutagenic chemicals and intense industrial air particulate pollution. "It stands to reason that mutations could also interfere with genes, but our ongoing research looks to clarify the severity of DNA damage throughout the genome," said Yauk. "So, while some men say they'll quit smoking after their child is born, this represents a good reason to quit well in advance of trying to conceive."

Related articles:
Sperm Crippled In Heavy Smokers
Stoned Sperm Impair Fertility
Smoking Damages Sperm DNA
Smoking Can Shrink The Penis

Source: American Association for Cancer Research

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