Emilie Rissman on NPR

Study Suggests that BPA, in plastic bottles and the lining of cans, affects the behavior of laboratory mice and the effects persist three generations later.

BPA Study

A new study from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests that BPA, a chemical found in plastic bottles and the lining of cans, affects the behavior of laboratory mice exposed during gestation and the effects persist three generations later.

The study also suggests a possible link between BPA and autism as Sandy Hausman reports.

Listen to the Radio Story Here.

From the Radio Story by Sandy Hausman:

Scientists say bisphenol-A leaches into food and beverages when plastic bottles are heated or when cans contain highly acidic foods like tomatoes. That could explain why at least 90% of us have BPA in our bloodstream. At the University of Virginia, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics decided to test its effect on laboratory mice:

“What we discovered was that if we used a very low dose –comparable to what humans are ingesting, and we just dosed them when they were gestating, so we just gave the drug to the pregnant mom in her food, we found both an immediate effect on the behavior of the offspring, and then when we bred them, multiple generations past that initial exposure, we found that some of these behavioral effects persisted.”

Professor Emilie Rissman says mice exposed to Bisphenol A in utero were energetic but not very social.

“They’re active running around the cage by themselves and not sitting and grooming the other mouse or sniffing the other mouse or those kinds of social exchanges.”

The study also showed an apparent link between BPA exposure and the genes responsible for producing two brain chemicals: vasopressin and oxytocin.

“In the first generation, the vasopressin gene was effected but not oxytocin, but by the fourth generation both of them were effected, and both of them were down, and there is a big body of literature and a lot of research on oxytocin and autism.”

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health and a group called Autism Speaks, is published in the journal Endocrinology.

Emilie Rissman (Biology)

Emilie Rissman is a Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Virginia the School of Medicine. She is also an active member of the Neuroscience program where she teaches a course in Epigenetics, Behavior and Cognition.

She received a BA in Psychology from the University of California at Berkeley and her Ph.D. in Biological Psychology from Cornell University where her dissertation work was on the role that pheromones play in suppressing puberty in male voles, Microtus Californicus. She was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Zoology at the University of Texas in Austin. There she began working on the reproductive physiology and behavior of the musk shrew, Suncus murinus.

She has authored over 140 publications since her appointment at the University of Virginia including several book chapters and scholarly reviews. She has given many lectures at other universities and plenary lectures at conferences, most recently at the American Psychological Association. She is an associate editor for four journals in her field. Her current research interests include the actions of endocrine disrupting agents on the developing brain along with the role that epigenetic modifications play and how these might be related to childhood mental illnesses.

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