This research may be extremely useful for predicting the risk of developing metabolic, immunological or reproductive disorders and neurological diseases caused by this chemical
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a plasticizer that is present in a wide variety of foods, cosmetics, packaging, toothpaste and toys, among other products. It is unlike other chemicals in that it degrades very quickly and it is easily flushed out of the body. However, exposure is practically continuous and before it has been fully degraded, more has been consumed, which means that the body never flushes it out completely. What is more, the metabolism of foetuses is slower and the degradation function is less developed. This means that bisphenol A stays in their organism for longer than in adults and poses a greater health risk.
Various studies have shown that when bisphenol comes into contact with the organism of pregnant women it can go through the placenta and reach the foetus. Among other things, exposure to this toxin can have negative effects on fertility, the development of the brain and behavioural changes in adulthood. So far, however, no method has been available for quantifying the amount of compound that can reach the foetus through the mother. Now, researchers from the Centre for Environmental, Food and Toxicological Technology (Tecnatox) have created a mathematical model that can calculate this amount and they have used it with a sample of 100 pregnant women to determine how biphenol A behaves in the organism and what consequences it can have on the future health of children.
The researchers, headed by Marta Schuhmacher, developed a pharmacokinetic model known as P-PBPK, which is “tailor made” for each person in the study: it detects the moment that the bisphenol A comes into contact with the organism through ingestion, inhalation or the skin. From this point on the model monitors it and analyses that effects it has during its journey through the organism until it is flushed out of the body.
Exactly how bisphenol A reacts when it is in the body depends on each person and a wide variety of variables (size, age, type of breathing, whether medication is being taken or not, etc.). The model that has been designed at the URV makes it possible to personalize all this information in real time, reveals the moment at which the foetus is most exposed to the chemical – in this case, after six months of pregnancy. It also provides more accurate determinations of the effects that exposure to this compound can have on an individual’s health.
The researchers monitored the women in the study after the first term of pregnancy, after the birth and then during breastfeeding. For the moment, the research has determined how much bisphenol A reaches the foetus through the mother and they are now studying the effects it has in each particular case. This means that personalised recommendations can be made about changes in habits and diet to reduce the impact of this chemical.
The challenge now is to determine what probabilities patients have of developing metabolic disorders, reproductive problems, immunological conditions or neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, since the concentration of this compound in the organism can affect the action of certain biomarkers that predispose to these diseases.
This research is part of the European project HEALS (Health and Environment-wide Associations via Large population Surveys), in which 29 secondary schools and research centres are taking part.
Reference: R.P. Sharma, M. Schuhmacher, V. Kumar . “The development of a pregnancy PBPK Model for Bisphenol A and its evaluation with the available biomonitoring data”. Science of the Total Environment 624 (2018) 55–68. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.023