With 1000 young men enrolled, FEPOS is the world largest cohort to examine the fetal origin of adult semen quality

Dec 9, 2019

FEPOS investigates the possible causes between male infertility and what was passed on at the fetal stage, by paring samples from mothers and their sons. Data from 100.000 mothers originates from the Danish National Birth Cohort and since 2017 FEPOS has collected biological samples and data from 1000 sons.

”We are extremely proud to have created the world’s largest male-offspring cohort specifically designed to investigate, if exposures during fetal life have consequences for male fertility in adult life. Evidence is emerging that maternal and paternal exposures before conception and during fetal life play a role for reproductive health. FEPOS now gives us the opportunity to study this in a population-based setting,” says Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg, reproductive and environmental epidemiologist as well as Principal Investigator on the FEPOS-project and on ReproUnion.

Further research can now address how the environment, lifestyle and medicine impact reproductive health, such as the hormonal balance and development of the fetus.
“FEPOS will not only provide new and important knowledge on causes of impaired male fertility. It is also an excellent example of how the Danish-Swedish synergy facilitates ground breaking and innovative research, which is the core of ReproUnion. Through the Danish National Birth Cohort our Danish colleagues recruited a unique group of young males, whereas we, on the Swedish side, have assisted them with advanced analyses of semen quality. We have also measured markers of environmental and lifestyle related exposure of their mothers during pregnancy,” says Aleksander Giwercman, Professor at Lunds University and heading up ReproUnion’s scientific board for the challenge working to improve human male fertility.

The goal of reaching 1000 participants by the end of 2019 was met on the 14th of November 2019. The sons in the FEPOS cohort are around 19 years old and have all answered a comprehensive web-based questionnaire about health behavior, medical history and reproductive health. Subsequently, they were physically examined at a clinic, where they also provided a sample of semen, urine, blood, and hair.

“Creating a cohort like FEPOS is no easy task and we have just applied for funding to get another 1000 participants. It is costly, and logistically challenging to build the cohort. It requires parental information and bio-specimens collected at just the right time during pregnancy and stored for decades before follow-up and the willingness of young men (often referred to as the “unreachables”) to participate. We are very grateful to ReproUnion, the Danish National Birth Cohort, and to the young men for allowing us to make this possible”, concludes Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg.

Find out more in this video about FEPOS produced by ReproUnion. This short video introduces the podcast ‘Roots of Infertility’ from the Danish National Biobank with Sandra Søgaard Tøttenborg.