New research from the University of Edinburgh suggests that male fertility problems such as low sperm count and testicular cancer are likely linked to hormone levels early in the mother’s pregnancy, BBC News reported.
Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that levels of male hormones, like testosterone, in a “critical window” of eight to 12 weeks into pregnancy determine the male’s future reproductive health, according to the article.
Common reproductive problems for young boys include cryptorchidism, where the testes do not descend properly into the scrotum. Disorders such as low sperm count and testicular cancer are thought to be along the same path, researchers suggested.
Researchers at the Medical Research Council Human Reproductive Sciences Unit used a mouse model and found the disorders resulted from low levels of male hormones, or androgens, during the fetus’ 8- to12-week development period.
“We know from other studies that androgens work during fetal development to program the reproductive tract,” said the study’s leader, Dr. Michelle Welsh.