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Prenatal toxicity linked to immune dysfunctions in later life

A Cornell researcher and his wife have conducted the first comprehensive review of later-life diseases that develop in people who were exposed to environmental toxins or drugs either in the womb or as infants. They have found that most of the diseases have two things in common: They involve an imbalanced immune system and exaggerated inflammatory reactions (at the cellular level).

In an invited, peer-reviewed article on developmental immunotoxicity (DIT), published in a recent issue of Current Medicinal Chemistry, Rodney Dietert, professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, and Janice Dietert of Performance Plus Consulting in Lansing, N.Y., found that almost all the chronic diseases that are associated with DIT share the same type of immunological damage.

The diseases linked to DIT include asthma, allergy, suppressed responses to vaccines, increased susceptibility to infections, childhood neurobehavioral conditions, autoimmunity, cancer, cerebral palsy, atherosclerosis, hypertension and male sterility.

Toxins that are known to cause developmental immune problems in fetuses and neonates, according to the Dieterts, include herbicides, pesticides, alcohol, heavy metals, maternal smoking, antibiotics, diesel exhaust, drugs of abuse and PCBs.

Antidotes to DIT, the researchers note, could come from a variety of sources, including herbal and fungal chemicals -- from mushrooms to clover -- which appear to have promise.

Two immune processes -- T helper (Th) cell balances and dendritic cell maturation -- are both compromised in ways that disrupt the regulation of inflammatory cell function, which leads to exaggerated inflammatory responses.

"Most therapeutic approaches have looked at specific disease outcomes from DIT, rather than focusing on the underlying immune dysfunction that creates the increased disease risk," said Rodney Dietert, who also presented his findings March 28 at the annual Society of Toxicology
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Contact: Sabina Lee
SSL37@cornell.edu
607-255-3024
Cornell University News Service
2-May-2007


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