New research reveals harmful effects of some man-made chemicals
Man-made chemicals have been widely used in food production and preservation. For examples, food preservatives can inhibit microbe growth, avoid food decaying, and prolong food storage time; flavoring can make food tastier; and edible pigments can make food more attractive.
However, persistent exposure to some of these chemicals may pose a health risk. Animal studies have demonstrated that some man-made chemicals cause obesity. But there are limited platforms available to investigate whether this is true in humans.
Recently, scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have developed a human-induced pluripotent stem cell-based platform for research into several common chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), tributyltin (TBT), and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT). All the three compounds belong to a class of endocrine disrupting chemicals.
PFOA is widely used in products like cookware, electric cooking appliances, fast food wrappers, stain resistant carpets and clothing, and water repellents for fabric and upholstery. People are likely exposed to PFOA by using these products or drinking contaminated water. PFOA is increasingly seen as a health concern because it can persist both in the environment and in the human body for a very long time.
TBT is used in anti-fouling paints, applied to the hulls of ocean going vessels. It is one of the most dangerous pollutants released into the ocean. It has harmful effects on both invertebrates and vertebrates, even humans. For humans, eating TBT-contaminated seafood is an important source of exposure to TBT.
BHT is used as a preservative in food and personal care products. Besides, it is used in many other products like pesticides, plastic, and rubber. Some studies on the health effects of BHT have come to conflicting findings.
In the present study, the team accessed the effects of PFOA, TBT, and BHT at physiological low-doses. Using their new platform, they were able to test these chemicals on human tissue. Results showed that these chemicals induced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, perturbed NF-κB signaling, disrupted p53 signaling, and impaired mitochondrial function. In addition, these chemicals reduced the levels of hormones that control appetite, including PYY, α-MSH, and CART. This confirms that PFOA, TBT, and BHT can lead to physiological endocrine disruption.
Collectively, the study uncovers the harmful effects of the chemicals PFOA, TBT and BHT on human cells and suggests that these harmful effects may contribute to metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes. But there are still many questions that remain unanswered.
The study (Endocrine disruptors induce perturbations in endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria of human pluripotent stem cell derivatives) was published online in the journal Nature Communications on 9 August 2017.
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