Antioxidant reverses BPA-induced fertility damage

From plastics to pesticides, it seems like every week delivers fresh news about the dangers of endocrine disruptors — chemicals in the environment that alter the body’s hormones and can lead to reproductive, developmental, neurologic and immune problems and cancer. Industry regulation and individual consumer choice can reduce exposure to such chemicals, but there are few options to counteract damage that has already occurred.

Now new research conducted in worms suggests a path toward changing that. A naturally occurring antioxidant known as Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10, reversed most of the reproductive harms caused by exposure to the plasticizer BPA (bisphenol A) in Caenorhabditis elegans worms, according to a study led by the lab of Monica Colaiácovo, professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School.

The findings, published in Genetics, provide the first evidence that at least some BPA-induced fertility damage can be undone.

Nevertheless, humans are not big worms, and people should not rush out and start taking CoQ10 as an anti-BPA agent without consulting a doctor, the study authors said. For one thing, the researchers used “very pure,” quality controlled CoQ10, while store-bought supplements vary in CoQ10 content and do not always contain the amounts stated on labels, previous analyses have found.

For the authors, though, the findings offer a glimmer of hope amid a flood of concerning findings. “When we uncover evidence of toxicity from yet another chemical, often there is a feeling of ‘Here we go again,'” said Colaiácovo. “But it’s important to see what we can learn from it. I want us to figure out solutions.”

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