Researchers are developing a clearer understanding of why the synthetic estrogens found in many widely-used plastics can cause damage to a developing fetus, fertility problems, and vaginal and breast cancers.
Past research has shown that exposure to the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) alters the expression of HOXA10, a gene necessary for uterine development, while increasing the risk of cancer and pregnancy complications. By studying the DNA of the offspring of 30 pregnant mice injected with DES, researchers found changes in certain regions of the HOXA10 gene that continued beyond the time of development and persisted into adulthood.
This indicates that exposure to DES and similar substances results in lasting genetic memory, known as “imprinting,” which is actually changing the structure of the HOXA10 gene.
Though DES is no longer on the market, pregnant women are frequently exposed to similar substances with estrogen-like properties, such as Bisphenol-A (BPA).
- The 2008 Society for Gynecologic Investigation (SGI) Annual Scientific Meeting, San Diego, California, March 26-29, 2008