Saturday, February 9, 2013

Father's obesity influences child's cancer risk

Ia a recent study, researchers from Duke Unviersity Hospital reported obese men are more likely to father children who go on to develop cancer, compared to men of normal weight

Previous studies showed that a mother's diet and weight might impact a child's health - even before he/she is born.

Hypomethylation of the gene coding for IGF2 (Insulin-like growth factor 2) in infants increases their risk of developing cancer when they are older. The researchers said that among babies whose fathers were obese, they found a drop in the amount of DNA methylation of IGF2 in the fetal cells that had been taken from cord blood.

The scientists gathered and examined data regarding parental weight and compared the epigenetic data of their offspring (newborns) - this was part of the Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST). While DNA is the genetic data which children inherit from their parents, epigenetic imprinting controls how active these genes are. DNA methylation is an example of DNA methylation.

IGF2 codes for a growth factor that is particularly crucial during a fetus' development. DNA hypomethylation, as well as other abnormal controls of this gene have been associated with cancer.

IGF2 was hypomethylated in infants with obese fathers, the researchers explained. This was not found in infants of obese mothers.

During spermatogenesis some regions in the DNA may be sensitive to environmental damage; these effects can be transmitted to the next generation. It is possible that (mal)nutrition or hormone levels in obese fathers, leads to incomplete DNA methylation or to unstable genomic imprinting of sperm cells. Further research is necessary to confirm our findings. In general, epigenetic marks are reprogrammed while sperm and eggs are being formed, and consequently nutrition, lifestyle or environment of the parents at this point in time can have a direct effect on a child's development and subsequent health.

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Father's obesity influences child's cancer risk

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