Direct exposure of bisphenol A (BPA) from a mother to her unborn child via the placenta may impact brain development. The corresponding study was published in Future Medicine by researchers from the University of Missouri, Columbia.
BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastic containers that store food and beverages, as well as other consumer goods, since the 1950’s. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that current use cases and consequent levels of BPA in foods are safe, in certain quantities, BPA is known to cause health issues including endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and diabetes. As such, many foods and beverage containers now advertise being ‘BPA-free’.
Over the last couple of decades, many researchers have focused on the effects of BPA on embryonic development. The present study adds to this body of work, focusing on how BPA interacts with microRNAs within the placenta and its effects on fetal brain development. MicroRNAs help regulate gene expression and in the placenta, are known to regulate fetal neural development and biomarkers for cancer.
For the study, the researchers exposed female mice to BPA two weeks prior to conception until day 12.5 of pregnancy. At this point, they collected their fetal placentas and isolated their RNAs for sequencing. Analyses demonstrated that BPA induces several small RNAs in the mouse placenta and that these may affect fetal brain development through the secretion of MicroRNA’s.
“We’re assuming that by changing the pattern of microRNAs in the placenta, these small molecules can then reach the brain, resulting in harmful effects,” said Cheryl Rosenfeld, lead author of the study, “Even before the brain’s neurons are developed, these microRNA packages may already be guiding fetal brain development. These changes may even be different in female versus male fetuses.”
Rosenfeld says that these RNA changes could be used as an early diagnostic biomarker for BPA exposure and that they one day could help prevent or even reverse some of its harmful effects.