About This ProjectExposure to BPA is widespread: it is present in beverage containers, food cans, compact discs, water pipes, etc... even in some cashier register receipts. BPA acts as a hormone in our body and some studies have shown possible health effects on the brain. The goal of this research is to investigate if the levels of BPA considered safe by the FDA (levels that occur in some foods) alter the way neurons communicate with each other in the adult brain.
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What is the context of this research?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate
plastics and epoxy resins, materials that are present in more places than we might think. Plastic bottles, food cans, baby bottles, water pipes, dental products, cash register receipts, etc. contain BPA that can be easily released and mixed with the beverage, the food, or the saliva.
But, why be concerned about BPA? This chemical has a molecular structure so similar to that of estrogen, the sexual hormone present in men and women, that the body may perceive it as the natural hormone. If the exposure to BPA is high, the concentration of this chemical in our body rises over certain levels shown to interfere with the action of the natural compound and produce undesirable health problems.
In 2010 the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a report1 in which it expressed some concerns about the possible effect of this compound on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. But recent studies have shown that the brain of adults might also be a target of BPA.
The goal of this project is to investigate if the exposure to BPA at doses considered safe by the FDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is able to alter the way neurons communicate with each other in the cerebral cortex, causing cognitive deficits in the adult brain.
What is the significance of this project?
One might think “I am BPA free because I take precautions”. However, exposure
to BPA is widespread in the U.S. population and, in fact, this agent was found in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older in a 2003-2004 study performed by the scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2.
While finding BPA in the urine does not directly imply that we are at risk of adverse health effects, it is important to know the health effects of levels of BPA exposure that are considered safe and the risks beyond those levels. In this sense, recent scientific findings indicated that the level of BPA in the body currently considered safe by the EPA causes memory problems in the brain of adult experimental animals.
We still do not know the full spectrum of effects of this compound on the brain and whether these effects act only on memory or also in other intellectual, sensory or motor tasks performed in other cerebral areas.
Currently many products such as food and beverage containers are becoming BPA-free, however what is worrisome is that the substitutes of BPA that manufacturers use to make plastics, such as bisphenol S (BPS), have also shown estrogenic activity.
What are the goals of the project?
In our laboratory we study how the neurons in the cerebral cortex form connections (called synapses) in normal conditions to communicate with other neurons, and how their structure changes with experience.
We want to apply our knowledge and the technology that we have at Tulane University to study if BPA disrupts the normal dynamics of synaptic contacts between neurons when exposing our laboratory animals to low doses of this agent (doses considered safe by the EPA). We want to know whether the new connections that neurons form when the brain is learning or storing information become less stable with BPA exposure.
We want to use this funding opportunity to start this line of research in our laboratory in collaboration with Dr. John McLachlan and Dr. Sarah Lindsey, also members of the Pharmacology Department here at Tulane and experts in the environmental and endocrine pharmacology fields. Some of the molecular analysis will be performed in their laboratories and their expertise will be pivotal in the interpretation of the results obtained. This will allow us to shed some light on the potential effect of BPA on brain function and to apply for federal funding to further support this investigation in our laboratory.
In our laboratory we have state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to image neurons in the brain of living mice with very high resolution multiple times (weeks or months). The use of this equipment, its maintenance, my personal time and some reagents and tools will be supplied free of charge.
We will use the funds to support the increase in size of our transgenic mice colony (purchase of new breeders and per diem cost of the additional mice).
Consumables (i.e., reagents, slides, etc.) used for subsequent analysis of the brain samples for neuronal markers will be sponsored by the funds.
The funds will also partially support the salary of the technician that takes care of the colony. We are requesting $15,000 for the proposed study.
Meet the Team
Team BioDuring my postdoctoral training at UCLA I studied changes in neuronal plasticity in the cortex after stroke and with normal aging using in vivo imaging techniques. Now that I became an independent investigator as an assistant professor on the tenure track at Tulane my laboratory will continue investigating cortical dynamics in vivo and how these dynamics are affected by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. After several meetings and conversations with my colleagues here at Tulane Dr. John McLachlan and Dr. Sarah Lindsey, experts in the endocrinology field and collaborators on this project, I got interested in the potential effects on the brain of BPA, a synthetic compound with estrogenic activity.
Link to PubMed list of publications by Ricardo Mostany
Ricardo Mostany, PhD
During my postdoctoral training at UCLA I studied changes in neuronal plasticity in the cortex after stroke and with normal aging using in vivo imaging techniques. Now that I became an independent investigator as an assistant professor on the tenure track at Tulane my laboratory will continue investigating cortical dynamics in vivo and how these dynamics are affected by intrinsic and extrinsic factors. After several meetings and conversations with my colleagues here at Tulane Dr. John McLachlan and Dr. Sarah Lindsey, experts in the endocrinology field and collaborators on this project, I got interested in the potential effects on the brain of BPA, a synthetic compound with estrogenic activity.
Additional InformationFor more information about BPA:
- $1,323Total Donations
- $69.63Average Donation