MADISON, WI June 21, 2012 Chemicals in the environment that mimic estrogen can strongly influence the development of humans and other animals. New research to be presented at the 2012 International Zebrafish Development and Genetics Conference, held June 20-24 in Madison, Wisconsin, reveals that these substances may act even earlier than previously realized, at the very beginning stages of embryonic development.
Estrogenic compounds in the environment are both naturally occurring, such as in food plants, and synthetic, such as bisphenol A (BPA), used in making hard plastic bottles, like baby bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans, including those for baby formula. They are known to affect development of the sex organs, but not much is known about other effects, including any at beginning embryonic development. "The timing of exposure is critical. Evidence from animals suggests that there are critical periods of development when endocrine disruptors could be more deleterious than exposure during adulthood," says Daniel Gorelick, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science.
Working with Professor Marnie Halpern, Ph.D., Dr. Gorelick discovered a new and unexpected activity of estrogenic compounds during early stages of embryonic development. He will present his findings at the conference on Sunday, June 24.
The researchers used zebrafish, which offer several advantages for studying this question. "People have used fish as environmental sentinels for aquatic pollution for decades," Dr. Gorelick says. Most studies, however, have been limited to fairly crude effects such as death or large-scale changes in single genes.
The researchers took advantage of the genetic tools available for zebrafish to study where and when estrogen receptors are active throughout the body. They genetically developed fish whose cells make a green fluorescent protein when their estrogen receptors are activated and looked
|Contact: Phyllis Edelman|
Genetics Society of America