Determining the role of the paternal epigenome in offspring health

Principal Investigator: Sarah Kimmins
Theme : Health
Competition : Pilot projects GQ
Status : Completed
Start : Oct. 1, 2010
End: Sept. 30, 2012
Budget : $192,856.00

Globally there have been reported increases in male infertility and in Québec, as of 2010, the government will now cover the costs of assisted reproductive techniques for infertile couples and it is expected that their use will increase worldwide.

The first question to arise: is it safe to use sperm from infertile men or will this increases the chances of birth defects and alter offspring health? Male infertility has been associated to changes in the epigenetic program. Epigenetics is used to describe inheritable biochemical information that sits on the DNA and is attached to the DNA packaging proteins, the histones. Importantly the epigenetic layer regulates whether a gene is turned on or not, and can be influenced by the food we eat, the drugs we take and the toxins we are exposed to. At the sperm level, epigenetic information may serve as a map to guide embryo development. If this setting of the epigenome is disturbed during male germ-cell development there will be negative consequences for fertility and the health of offspring.

This research program will investigate how the epigenetic information carried on sperm DNA contributes to male fertility and embryo health. The information generated from these studies will contribute new information on male infertility and as to how fathers can cause disease in their offspring through inheritable information outside of the DNA.



Michael Hallett McGill University
Jacquetta Trasler McGill University