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Mothers Who Smoke Affect The Fertility Of Their Sons

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 09:07 AM EDT

Mothers who smoke while they are pregnant or breast feeding may be damaging the future fertility of their sons, according to a new study performed on mice. 

The study being the first comprehensive animal model shows the mechanism by which smoking can affect the fertility of male offspring. 

Studies in past had proven that smoking during pregnancy can have a number of harmful effects on the developing foetus but the effects on the fertility of a male offspring and the mechanisms involved have been unclear. 

"It would be unethical to deliberately expose pregnant mothers and their offspring to the toxins in cigarettes - we already know that smoking in pregnancy harms the baby in the womb - as babies are often born small and vulnerable to disease. So, in this study we used a mouse animal model, which directly mimics human smoking, to look at what effects the mothers smoking during pregnancy and breast feeding has on the fertility of their male pups," said lead researcher professor Eileen McLaughlin, Co-Director of the Priority Research Center in Chemical Biology at the University of Newcastle (New South Wales, Australia), in the press release.

"Our results show that male pups of 'smoking' mothers have fewer sperm, which swim poorly, are abnormally shaped and fail to bind to eggs during in vitro fertilisation studies. Consequently, when these pups reach adulthood they are sub fertile or infertile. This is the first time we have been able to prove conclusively that male baby exposure to cigarette toxins in pregnancy and early life will damage later life fertility," said Prof McLaughlin.

Findings of the study were published in the journal Human Reproduction.

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