Weight affects knees and the information in sperm

Fat dads pass on weight to kids, shedding kilos good for knees, aspirin a weapon against neurodegenerative diseases

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 December, 2015, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 December, 2015, 2:00pm

Sperm carries information about dad’s weight

It turns out dads are also eating for two. A new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals that a man’s weight affects the heritable information contained in sperm. The sperm cells of lean and obese men possess different epigenetic marks, notable at gene regions associated with the control of appetite. The comparisons, which included 13 lean men and 10 obese men, offer one biological explanation for why children of obese fathers are themselves more predisposed to obesity.

In the next phase of the study, the investigators tracked six men undergoing weight-loss surgery to see how it affected their sperm. An average of 5,000 structural changes to sperm cell DNA were observed from the time before the surgery, directly after, and one year later. “Our research could lead to changing behaviour, particularly pre-conception behaviour of the father,” says senior author Romain Barrès, an Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen. “It’s common knowledge that when a woman is pregnant she should take care of herself – not drink alcohol, stay away from pollutants, etc – but if the implication of our study holds true, then recommendations should be directed towards men, too.”

MRI reveals weight loss protects knees

Obese people who lose a substantial amount of weight can significantly slow the degeneration of their knee cartilage, according to a new study. Ageing baby boomers and a rise in obesity have contributed to an increased prevalence of knee osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease. The study’s lead author, Dr Alexandra Gersing, from the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at the University of California, San Francisco and colleagues recently investigated the association between different degrees of weight loss and the progression of knee cartilage degeneration in 506 overweight and obese patients who either had mild to moderate osteoarthritis or risk factors for the disease. When the researchers used MRI to analyse the differences in the quality of cartilage among the three groups over a four-year time span, they found evidence that weight loss has a protective effect against cartilage degeneration and that a larger amount of weight loss is more beneficial. “Cartilage degenerated a lot slower in the group that lost more than 10 per cent of their body weight, especially in the weight-bearing regions of the knee,” Gersing says. “However, those with 5 to 10 per cent weight loss had almost no difference in cartilage degeneration compared to those who didn’t lose weight.”

Aspirin targets key protein in neurodegenerative diseases

There could be a new weapon for the battle against neurodegenerative diseases. A new study finds that a component of the common painkiller aspirin binds to an enzyme called GAPDH, which is believed to play a major role in conditions including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases. Researchers at the Boyce Thompson Institute and John Hopkins University discovered that salicylic acid, the primary breakdown product of aspirin, binds to the enzyme, thereby stopping it from moving into a cell’s nucleus, where it can trigger the cell’s death. “The enzyme GAPDH, long thought to function solely in glucose metabolism, is now known to participate in intracellular signalling,” says co-author Solomon Snyder, professor of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. “The new study establishes that GAPDH is a target for salicylate drugs related to aspirin, and hence may be relevant to the therapeutic actions of such drugs.” Furthermore, the researchers found that a natural derivative of salicylic acid from the Chinese medical herb licorice and a lab-synthesised derivative bind to GAPDH more tightly than salicylic acid. Both are more effective than salicylic acid at blocking GAPDH’s movement into the nucleus and the resulting cell death.