ReproUnion supported PhD brings new knowledge on the imprint men and women risk leaving on their future children from smoking and exposure to PFAS

Oct 13, 2021

The world’s largest male offspring cohort to examine the fetal origin of adult reproductive function – called the Fetal Programming of Semen Quality (FEPOS) was established in 2017 as part of Katia Keglberg Hærvig’s PhD project, funded by ReproUnion.

“We needed the cohort to investigate if selected exposures in fetal life have long-term consequences for male reproductive function. The findings in my PhD increase our knowledge on the imprint men and women leave on their future children, even before trying to become pregnant,” says Katia, who will defend her PhD on the 10th of December 2021.

Sons have up to 10% fewer sperm if their fathers smoked before they were conceived, reported the Daily mail after preliminary research results based on the FEPOS cohort, were presented at ESHRE in 2019. Last year Andrology published these first results from Katia’s PhD project: Fetal exposure to paternal smoking and semen quality in the adult son.

The likely explanation for a preconceptional or prenatal effect of paternal smoking in the offspring is epigenetic, by which paternal smoking can induce alterations in the sperm genome, which in turn may be transmitted to the cells of the offspring.
Today the FEPOS cohort contains information on fetal exposures and biologically measured indicators of reproductive health in 1,058 young men.

In her project Katia also researched the association between fetal exposure to combined and single per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and male reproductive function in adulthood. PFAS are manmade chemicals with water-, dirt-, and oil- repellent properties, and are widely used in multiple industrial and commercial applications such as food packaging, coated cookware, cosmetics, paint, textiles, and firefighting foams.

“Other studies have focused on associations with single PFAS and to the best of my knowledge, no studies have investigated the combined fetal exposure to PFAS and reproductive function of the adult son. The findings are currently under review for publication, and I look forward to discussing my combined research in December,” ends Katia who you are welcome to contact regarding her final PhD and defence (


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