Perspectives: The Possible Influence of Assisted Reproductive Technologies on Transgenerational Reproductive Effects of Environmental Endocrine Disruptors
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Demasculinization by environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) is observed in many animal species but less evident in humans. Rodent studies with gestational exposure to either the fungicide vinclozolin or the insecticide methoxychlor demonstrate impaired male fertility with abnormal DNA methylation patterns in spermatozoa. Once established, these epigenetic changes may be permanent and thus paternally passed to subsequent generations. Conclusive evidence of a similar phenomenon in humans has not been established, but several observations bring up the possibility. Some, but not all, studies show an increase in male genital abnormalities after prenatal EDC exposure. Other studies demonstrate sperm abnormalities in males with EDC contact, although it is unclear as to whether this is due to prenatal or postnatal exposure. Although not examined in males with EDC exposure, one study shows gamete DNA methylation abnormalities in males with severe oligospermia. A subsequent study failed to corroborate these findings. The use of assisted reproductive techniques including intracytoplasmic sperm injection has removed natural selection barriers thus enabling reproduction in males that would otherwise be sterile. This review explores the hypothesis that prenatal EDC exposure results in transgenerational male reproductive abnormalities propagated by the use of assisted reproductive technologies.
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