Study looks at how male alcohol consumption affects offspring in mice, providing insight into fetal alcohol disorders

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A recent study by the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences found that depending on maternal genetics, the epigenetic mechanisms associated with a father’s alcohol intake pre-conception can manifest in the placenta of mice offspring.

The study, published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, set out to discover how maternal genetics and paternal epigenic factors impacts fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. To do so, scientists exposed male rodent models to alcohol who mated with female rodents with differing genetic backgrounds. They then observed the offspring.

Previous studies done by the same team showed that the offspring of alcohol exposed males had several fetal irregularities including fetal growth restriction, enlarged placentas, and decreased placental efficiency. This study found that paternal alcohol exposure only impacted offspring when the mother exhibited certain genes. In contrast to their previous studies, researchers found when alcohol exposed males mated with CD-1 dams, their offspring exhibited no fetal growth restrictions. However, they did find sex-specific changes in placental morphology that appeared to be associated with female specific alterations of the imprinted genes CDkn1c and H19. Male offspring did not show any obvious changes in placental histology. However, through RNA sequencing, researchers discovered differences in the genes of male offspring which controlled oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial function, and Sirtuin signaling.

The study’s researchers determined that together, their results suggested that paternal alcohol exposure can modulate the placenta in mice depending on the mother’s genetic makeup. While these results cannot be directly applied to humans, the research does pave the way for future studies on humans. Integrative practitioners may want to refer to this study when considering nutrition and lifestyle plans for males who want to become fathers.