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Your Environment. Your Health.

Altered Airway Cells Seen in Rhesus Macaques after Third-trimester Exposure to BPA

cell picture
Late pregnancy exposure to BPA was associated with a higher number of mucous cells in the airway epithelium of exposed fetuses, compared with controls. (Reproduced with permission from Environmental Health Perspectives. Van Winkle LS et al. 2012. Fetal Exposure of Rhesus Macaques to Bisphenol A Alters Cellular Development of the Conducting Airway by Changing Epithelial Secretory Product Expression. Environ Health Perspect 121:912-918.)

New evidence shows that bisphenol A (BPA) may affect lung health. Exposure to BPA has been shown to alter the development of reproductive organs, but little is known about its effect on the development of other organ systems. Now researchers from the Superfund Research Program at the University of California, Davis report that BPA exposure in gestation alters airway cell development in rhesus macaques.

Pregnant rhesus macaques were exposed to BPA during gestational periods roughly comparable to the second and third trimesters in humans.

The investigators found that BPA exposure in late pregnancy was associated with increased expression of secretory proteins in fetal tissue. The cells that produce these proteins mature late in gestation. The proteins themselves, Clara cell secretory protein (CCSP) and the mucins MUC5AC and MUC5B, are key components of airway mucous secretions.

Increases in mucous cell abundance are a hallmark of asthma. Recent epidemiology studies show a link between neonatal BPA exposure and asthma. While this study is not conclusive in linking BPA to asthma or airways hyper-responsiveness as there was no long-term follow up on the exposed fetuses, it provides an important clue about how BPA may alter lung development, which in turn could predispose humans or animals to airway disease.

BPA exposure is widespread. One report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that about 92% of urine samples collected from U.S. males and females more than 6 years old contained detectable levels of the chemical.

To read more about the study, visit the Environmental Health Perspectives news page .

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