London, April 23: Know that your testosterone levels may be determined even before you are born? Yes. In the womb.
Men’s susceptibility to serious health conditions may be influenced by low exposure to testosterone in the womb, research suggests.
A mother’s diet, lifestyle and exposure to drugs and chemicals can have a significant impact on testosterone levels in the womb.
“We need a better grasp of these factors so that we can give reliable advice to pregnant women to protect the health of her unborn child,” explained professor Richard Sharpe from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Reproductive Health at University of Edinburgh.
Low levels of the hormone have been linked to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Providing evidence of how events in the womb could influence male health in later life, researchers showed that the cells responsible for producing testosterone in adults – known as Leydig cells – are derived from a specific population of stem cells found in the testes.
The team found evidence of these stem cells in the developing testes of babies, rats, mice and marmosets in the womb.
“Leydig cells do not develop until puberty but our research showed that their function is impaired if their stem cell forefathers are exposed to reduced levels of testosterone in the womb,” Sharpe noted.