With 15,000 tons produced each year for batteries, alloys, and pigments, the heavy metal cadmium is one of the most serious environmental pollutants. Chronic exposure can induce kidney damage and bone disease and is thought to cause cancer. A study in the August issue of Nature Medicine now shows that cadmium mimics the effects of estrogen, and suggests that even at relatively low doses cadmium might have wide-ranging effects on the body.
Mary Beth Martin and colleagues report that, in rats, cadmium induces several well-known estrogenic responses. These included increased uterine weight, changes in the endometrial lining and increased density of the epithelia of the mammary gland. Moreover, in utero exposure to cadmium affected mammary gland development and onset of puberty in female offspring. The results provide solid evidence that cadmium has estrogenic effects in the whole animal, and follow up on earlier studies reporting that cadmium and other heavy metals such as nickel interact with the estrogen receptor. The new data also broaden the toxic repertoire of cadmium, which is a known kidney toxin, and was recently shown (Jin et al., Nat. Genet. 34, 326–329; 2003) to impair DNA repair processes in yeast.
The investigators did not perform dose-response studies but they found that cadmium induced potent estrogenic responses in rats at doses (5–10 micrograms per kilogram total weight) comparable to the Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake recommended by the World Health Organization (7 micrograms per kilogram per week). In addition to pinpointing another mechanism for some of cadmium’s effects, the new data could call into question current regulatory standards for cadmium exposure.
Jo Webber | alfa
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Physicists have developed a technique based on optical microscopy that can be used to create images of atoms on the nanoscale. In particular, the new method allows the imaging of quantum dots in a semiconductor chip. Together with colleagues from the University of Bochum, scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute reported the findings in the journal Nature Photonics.
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On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.
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What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...
For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.
Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...
At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.
No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...
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