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Common environmental chemicals in diet affect fetal ovarian development

which the developing fetus is most sensitive to disruption and also to measure the degree to which fertility is affected in the offspring after puberty, following their exposure as fetuses to environmental concentrations of a mixture of pollutants. Switching some mothers from sewage sludge fertilised to control pastures before conception will tell us whether maternal exposure either before or during pregnancy does most damage to the offspring, said Dr. Fowler. The sheep model is quite novel, with relatively little research in the area currently being performed in this way. One of the collaborators in the project, Professor Richard Sharpe from the MRC Human Reproductive Sciences Unit in Edinburgh, UK, has already found reduced testosterone and testis cell numbers in the male fetus exposed to sewage sludge at day 110 of gestation.

The group has applied for further funding to look more closely at the implications of the sheep findings for humans, for instance by comparing quantities of chemicals in the human fetus with those seen in sheep, and investigating whether changes induced in the sheep fetus could be a problem for the developing human. They also intend to look at the mechanisms by which exposure to environmental chemicals can cause defects in reproductive development in order to determine what might be done to reduce risks for the human fetus.

There is still considerable debate around the level of importance of environmental chemicals in cancer, obesity, infertility and other complex diseases which have multiple causes. We hope our research will help in the drive for evidence-based policy making on this issue, said Dr Fowler. If we can definitely establish that environmental chemicals are important in triggering these diseases, then we might be able to produce better treatments, but it would also be important to devise legislation to begin reducing the levels of such chemicals. We would then look to work with chemical and agricultural ind
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Contact: Mary Rice
mary@mrcommunication.org
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology
4-Jul-2007


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