Stressed dads ‘pass risk of diabetes onto offspring’
A new study has found the children of stressed men have a higher risk of suffering from diabetes.
Researchers at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine examined how stress hormones affect blood sugar levels by looking at male mice, and believe the results could be applied to humans.
The rodents were forced to suffer stress by being kept in tubes for two hours a day for a two-week period.
While the glucose levels of the mice were normal, they were found to have an increased level of the stress hormone glucocorticoid in their blood.
When these mice were mated with females who had not been in tubes, their offspring were found to have higher blood glucose levels than normal.
“We are very interested in how behavioural change affects glucose homeostasis,” Professor Xiaoying Li said.
“Epidemiological studies have demonstrated the association of psychological stress with incident diabetes.
“We are curious about whether the effect can be passed down through generations.”
The increased levels of blood sugar were found to be in the gene Sfmbt2. When the mouse was kept in a tube, the extra glucocorticoids led to more methyl groups being added to the Sfmbt2 gene in the rodent’s sperm.
However, when the mouse was injected with a molecule that leads to a dampened effect of glucocorticoids, the Sfmbt2 gene was prevented from becoming over methylated – meaning the blood sugar levels weren’t affected.
Now Professor Li is hoping that further research will enable scientists to discover a way to block the effects of glucocorticoids on human sperm.
“Paternal psychological stress can result in hyperglycemia in offspring in mice,” she added.
The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.