A $2 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will establish the Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center at Illinois. Four pilot projects will be conducted over the next three years at Illinois and Harvard University.
BPA and phthalates are endocrine disruptors. They mimic natural hormones and thus can interfere with hormone signaling in the body.
BPA is used to make shatterproof plastics and is a component of many containers and bottles, PVC pipes, dental fillings and electronics. Resins made with BPA line metal food and drink containers. Human studies have found BPA in many tissues and fluids, including urine, blood, breast milk and the amniotic fluid of pregnant women.
The National Toxicology Program conducted a review of laboratory studies on animals exposed to BPA in 2008 and reported that while there was little evidence that exposure to BPA was harmful to adults, there was “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.”
Phthalates increase the durability, transparency and flexibility of some plastics. They also are used as emulsifiers, lubricants, stabilizers, binders and coatings in cosmetics, building materials, food products, wrappers, textiles, toys and pills. Studies have found that high exposure to some phthalates can alter hormone levels and cause birth defects in rodents.
The four pilot projects will evaluate the effects of BPA and phthalate exposure on infants and adolescents. Two of the projects will focus on human subjects, and two will involve rodents.
The centerpiece of the studies is a project that looks at exposure to BPA and phthalates in relation to the physical and mental development of infants. Carle Physicians Group in Champaign-Urbana will collaborate on this project, called Illinois Kids (I-Kids). The researchers will follow pregnant women and their babies, measuring BPA and phthalate levels in the urine every month and collecting data on possible sources of exposure. The babies will also undergo physical, behavioral and cognitive tests.
“We’re going to see the babies within the first 24 hours of birth and collect a lot of data about their growth and development but also about their cognitive function,” said Susan Schantz, a professor of comparative biosciences at Illinois, an environmental toxicologist and the director of the new center.
“These chemicals are endocrine disrupters,” she said. “BPA is estrogenic and phthalates are anti-androgenic, so both are expected to disrupt sex hormones in the body.”
Testosterone and estrogen are important for the sex differences that develop in the fetal and neonatal brain. Male and female babies normally differ in their physical attributes and also in their cognitive abilities and behavior, Schantz said. “We want to see if those sex differences are changed by the exposure to these chemicals,” she said.
Two developmental psychologists at Illinois, comparative biosciences professor Andrea Aguiar and psychology professor Renee Baillargeon, will conduct the cognitive and behavioral tests. The researchers hope to follow the infants for many years.
In a separate project, a collaborator at Harvard Medical School, Susan Korrick, M.D., will assess the BPA and phthalate exposures of a group of adolescents she has been following since they were born.
Korrick will conduct neuropsychological assessments of her subjects and measure traits, such as verbal or spatial reasoning, known to differ between males and females at this age.
“Adolescence is another period where sex hormones have a big impact on brain development and behavior and even physical development,” Schantz said. This project will allow researchers to determine if exposure to BPA and phthalates hinders normal hormone signaling and alters the development of traits that differ between the sexes.
Illinois psychology professor Janice Juraska will conduct similar studies in rats exposed to the same chemicals “at time periods in the rats’ lives that parallel prenatal development and adolescence in humans,” Schantz said. Juraska will evaluate cell density in various brain regions to get a fuller picture of any changes that accompany exposure to the chemicals.
A fourth project will look at potential changes in the reproductive systems of male and female mice exposed to BPA and phthalates. Illinois comparative biosciences professor Jodi Flaws, a reproductive toxicologist and associate director of the new center, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences researcher Humphrey Yao, a reproductive biologist, will use genetically altered mice to reveal the mechanisms by which these hormone mimics act on reproductive cells.
“Investigators from all four projects will work together closely to obtain a cohesive picture of the effects of bisphenol A and phthalates on infant and adolescent development, cognition, and behavior,” Flaws said.
A key focus of the center will be education and outreach to the community.
Michigan State professor of epidemiology and statistics Joseph Gardiner also will collaborate on the studies.
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences