Researchers at The University of Nottingham are set to take part in one of the first studies of the effect of environmental chemicals on female mammals. Part of the Reproductive Effects of Environmental Chemicals in Females Consortium (REEF), Dr Richard Lea of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and Dr Kevin Sinclair of the School of Biosciences will receive a £500,000 grant for their work researching how these chemicals impact on mammalian fertility. REEF will receive a total of £2.4m in funding from the EU.
Dr Lea and Dr Sinclair will study the impact of low levels of environmental chemicals on sheep foetuses in the womb. The specific chemicals to be studied are found in human sewage sludge which is frequently spread on fields where sheep graze prior to entering the human food chain.
The amount of chemicals absorbed is thought to be so minute that they would be difficult to discern through testing. However, through a process known as bioaccumulation, chemicals can become concentrated in individuals over a number of years, stored mostly in fat tissue. Though these chemicals may not be directly harmful to these individuals, if they are passed on — for example, through gestation in the womb or through the food chain — they might have consequences for human health.
“One of the concerns of bioaccumulation is that when the fat is broken down and passed on — for example during the breast feeding process — the offspring are exposed to a concentration of chemicals that the mother has built up over the years,” said Dr Sinclair.
Colleagues in Aberdeen have provided precise measurements of specific chemicals in the environment and in animal tissues. These often take the form of chemicals which mimic hormones.
“These chemicals come from a variety of sources including plastics, pesticides and industrial waste and many of these persist in the environment for a long time — albeit at very low levels,” said Dr Lea. “The problem is even low levels can still have an effect.”
The three-year study will look at how chemicals are passed on from mother to foetus, and how this impacts on the foetus. It is thought that, although this generation of animals may have no problems getting pregnant, the next and future generations could have fertility problems stemming from exposure to environmental chemicals in the womb.
Dr Lea said: “Though male fertility has been the subject of studies in recent years, this will be the first time that female fertility has been examined. Currently, less is known about the effects of hormone-like chemicals on the developing female foetus, so the consequences for reproductive development in females may be greater than in males.”
“We’re not talking about obvious congenital defects here, but tiny changes caused by exposure to chemicals that have an impact on reproductive function — changes over generations rather than immediate effect,” added Dr Sinclair.
The inaugural meeting of the REEF consortium will take place in Copenhagen on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 May to formally launch the project.
Emma Thorne | alfa
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy