Primary author of several recent studies involving di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) and linuron (L) discusses his findings and what they mean for understanding human development.
Over the last ten years, US researchers have observed a marked increase in some male reproductive disorders, including undescended testicles, increased instances of testicular cancer, and decreased sperm count. In the last 20 years the rates for testicular cancer have grown almost five-fold in Denmark, yet neighboring Finland has not experienced such a dramatic increase. In an effort to explain this phenomenon, scientists have hypothesized that these human male reproductive deficits may have a common origin: a disturbance in the level of androgen and other critical hormones during fetal development. The results from tests with laboratory animals may help scientists better understand the effect of fetal exposure to certain chemicals has on male reproduction abilities later in life.
Paul M.D. Foster, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Environmental Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC, and his colleagues have recently co-authored a series of journal articles examining how fetal exposure to two common environmental agents affects the reproductive capabilities of some laboratory animals. Dr. Foster will be discussing their research during a presentation entitled, "Disruption of Male Reproductive Development by Antiandrogens" during the 55th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), being held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA, July 20-24, 2003. More than 16,000 attendees are expected.
Presently, studies of antiandrogen and the male reproductive system are confined to experimental animals, since human studies exposing pregnant women to large quantities of these chemical agents would be inappropriate. Additionally, common human birth defects are difficult to track and definitively establish cause and effect.
Dr. Foster does not believe that the findings of these animal studies should be cause for alarm. While researchers do not know at what dose level exposure to these chemicals might produce effects in humans, they know that in animals, the dose levels that produce the adverse changes are significantly higher than the levels that have been measured in ongoing human studies.
He does believe that this research, and the similar efforts of other research institutions, will expand the effort to determine how environmental and pharmaceutical antiandrogens may impact on human development. The effects of antiandrogen exposure may not be uniform for any population group. This suggests that research in this field should be linked linked to the ongoing effort to map critical developmental signaling pathways that determine why only some react to these selected agents.
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