How does the sperm of fathers with liver disease affect the health of their children?

Professor Catherine Williamson, Vanessa Formigo Pataia, Dr Peter Dixon

We are currently investigating changes to the sperm in men with liver disease, and how this also impacts the lifelong health of their children.

For some years, we have known that the health of fathers at the time of conception has an influence on the health of their children. 

Similar to the impact of obesity in pregnant mothers, studies have found that obesity in fathers increases the likelihood of obesity and diabetes in their children. 

More recently, researchers have been able to identify changes in the structure and function of the sperm in men with metabolic disorders that result in changes to the lifelong health of the baby. 

Our research has shown that the children of women with high bile acids in pregnancy have abnormal cholesterol levels in their blood. We are now investigating whether bile acid disorders in men can impact the health of their children. 

Pilot studies in mice have shown that high bile acids in fathers do indeed alter the sperm and cause high blood pressure and altered cholesterol levels in the grown-up offspring. Therefore, it is now the right time to study this in men with liver disease. 

We are now recruiting men with liver diseases and a comparison group of healthy men to take part in our study. The study has two parts; (1) to investigate changes to the sperm of men with liver disease; (2) to investigate the health of adolescent and young adult children of men who had liver disease at the time of conception of their child. 

We hope that this research will reveal whether any changes to the sperm of men with liver conditions may also have an impact on the health of their children later on in life. 

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This research is funded by Tommy's and a PSC Support Project Grant. 

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