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According to the results of a new study, men's susceptibility to serious diseases can be the consequence of low exposure to testosterone in the womb. A study by researchers in Edinburgh shows that the level of testosterone in males is determined even before the birth of the boy. Scientists have shown that the cells responsible for producing testosterone in adults known as Leydig cells are derived from a specific population of stem cells present in the testes. Experts found evidence of these stem cells in the developing testes of babies, rats, mice and marmosets in the womb. Leydig cells do not develop until puberty, but research has shown that their function is compromised if the stem cells from which they evolved, had the lowest testosterone levels in the womb.
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The study is the first which has provided evidence of how events during pregnancy can influence male health later in life. Professor Richard Sharpe said: "There is increasing evidence that a mother's diet, her lifestyle, exposure to drugs and chemicals can have a significant impact on testosterone levels in the womb. We need a better understanding of these factors to give good advice to pregnant women on how to protect the health of her unborn child."