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Androgen Exposure in Womb May Predetermine Testosterone Levels in Men - Study Finds
Scientists at the Medical Research Council Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, published a study that suggests testosterone levels in men are predetermined by androgen exposure in the womb. They discovered that low levels of testosterone in the womb can affect the development of adult Leydig cells (ALCs), the cells that produce testosterone in men. The study appeared in the April 21, 2014, print and online editions of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Fetal programming of adult Leydig cell function by androgenic effects on stem/progenitor cells).
 
The researchers treated pregnant rats with a chemical to suppress fetal levels of testosterone and then measured the number of adult Leydig cells in mature male progeny. Adult rats that developed in wombs with reduced levels of testosterone had an approximately 40 percent reduction in the number of adult Leydig cells compared to rats that developed in wombs with normal levels of testosterone. The researchers believe that testosterone levels somehow affect the genesis of adult Leydig cells from stem cells.
 
“Our study shows, for the first time, to our knowledge, that testosterone levels during fetal masculinization can (re)program adult testosterone levels through effects on stem cells, which develop into adult Leydig cells after puberty,” the researchers said. This finding, according to the authors, could potentially explain why testosterone levels in men of all ages are declining as well as why men with low sperm count commonly exhibit adult Leydig cell failure.
 
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