Nature discusses new findings about how we’ll all get superpowers, like heat vision and wings, just by breathing! Well, what they really said was that air pollution mutates sperm (here’s a non-subscriber version):
Epidemiological studies in humans have suggested a link between air pollution and reduced male fertility, but such studies are often confounded by other lifestyle differences such as diet, genetic background, and economic class. No such research has been done on people in Hamilton Harbour, Canada, where the mouse studies were carried out.
Previous work had demonstrated that the offspring of wild birds that breed near steel mills inherit more DNA mutations than their rural counterparts. Then, studies in mice suggested a possible reason for that pattern. Canadian researchers found that filtering out particles from polluted air lessened the risk of heritable mutations in mice caged near Hamilton. And the bulk of mutations from pollution were coming from the father.
Now, in work published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, Carole Yauk of Health Canada in Ottawa and her colleagues have returned to Hamilton. This time they monitored male mice for direct evidence of DNA damage in their sperm.
After three weeks of breathing the Hamilton air, the mice were already showing more signs of DNA breakage than control mice breathing filtered air.