The ill-effects of stress are
well known today, thanks to the media and internet. They are responsible for
providing a huge web of health-related information, aimed at encouraging
healthy living among people.
But it seems the harmful effects
of chronic stress don't just limit themselves to increasing blood pressure and
causing headaches; they extend much beyond that.
A new study, conducted by a team
of researchers led by Professor Tracy Bale at the University of Pennsylvania,
claims that stress may have a huge impact on men's sperm production, and may
also influence the mental health of his possible children.
According to the study, chronic
stress in adulthood, during the teenage years, or even as children may cause
permanent genetic changes in the sperms of males.
This is actually the first time
that a clear link has been established between chronic stress and its related
ill-effects being passed down into the next generation, the researchers claim.
Published in the journal Neuroscience
, this study was done in
male mice. The mice were exposed to stress (exposed to predator odor, moved to
another cage, noise etc) for 6 weeks before breeding. This chronic stress was
found to spur a genetic change in the sperm of these mice, which then
re-programmed a part of their offspring's brain.
"It didn't matter if dads were going through puberty or in
adulthood when stressed before they mated. We've shown here for the first time
that stress can produce long-term changes to sperm that reprogram offspring
brains," Professor Bale claimed.
"These findings suggest one way in which paternal-stress
exposure may be linked to such neuropsychiatric diseases," he added.
Stress has always been
credited for numerous health issues; this one in particular may shed light on
how dangerous chronic stress can actually be.