Latest Expert Interviews: Fetal Germ Cell Vulnerability, Non-Genetic Transmission of Traits, and the "Hidden History" of Prenatal Drugs
We are pleased to announce the addition of five fascinating new expert interviews at GermlineExposures.org.
Toshi Shioda, MD, PhD, Harvard University:
A Revolution in Germline Toxicology: Primordial Germ Cell-Like Cells (PGC-LCs)
One of the barriers to understanding germline exposure risk is the lack of effective and reliable models for mechanistic studies. Dr. Shioda’s lab has taken advantage of cutting edge tools from stem cell biology and deep sequencing technology to develop germ cell models on which new toxicological tests could be run.
"If epigenetic errors occur in the germline genome during the reprogramming process during pregnancy of a woman, her sons or daughters appear normal, but their germline cells carry a potential bomb."
Piroska Szabó, PhD, Van Andel Institute:
Chemicals Can Exert Direct Epigenetic Effects on Exposed Fetal Germ Cells
Dr. Szabó's recent paper in Genome Biology reported that endocrine disruptors affected the global transcription and DNA methylation state of exposed fetal mouse germ cells, but these aberrations were not passed on to the germ cells of the subsequent generation.
"I am concerned about harming the exposed germ cells by the chemicals we have tested. I also feel very concerned about potentially harming the germ cells by the many thousands of additional man-made chemicals that humans or wildlife can’t avoid being exposed to."
Miklos Toth, PhD, Cornell Medical Center:
Non-DNA Mediated Transmission of Behavior Across Generations
Maternal factors during sensitive periods of development produce persistent effects in the offspring, including effects on brain development and behavior. Dr. Toth's latest paper looks beyond fetal effects to successive generations, looking at altered methylation and gene expression in genes whose functions can be linked to behavioral traits, and ultimately, changes in neuronal function and behavior in generations of mice.
"We believe that iterative somatic transmission (through bioactive compounds via the placenta and breast milk) of behavioral traits is a prominent intergenerational and multigenerational mechanism."
June Reinisch, PhD, Prenatal Development Project, and former director, The Kinsey Institute:
The "Hidden History" of Pregnancy Drugs in the Postwar Era
Prenatal Exposures Oral History Project
Dr. Reinisch is renowned for her pioneering investigations of adverse impacts of various post-war pregnancy drugs, including once-common synthetic steroid hormones and barbiturates, on fetal development. In the 1970s Jill Escher, who had been exposed in utero to large quantities of synthetic steroid hormones, was one of her study subjects.
"There was a gigantic growth in all kinds of pharmaceuticals after World War II. Since there was this idea of the fetal placental barrier, there was the notion you could treat the mother without interfering with the baby. That went on for much longer than it should have."
Mark Klebanoff, MD, MPH, University of Ohio:
Postwar Obstetric Practices
Prenatal Exposures Oral History Project
Dr. Klebanoff has examined a variety of outcomes in cohorts of pregnancies from the post-war decades, during which some myth-driven obstetric practices were the norm.
"It gave me a good healthy dose of humility because the between-the-lines message was let's wait another 40 years to find out how many things we do today do more harm than good."
See all 35 expert interviews:
Jill Escher, Escher Fund for Autism, is a California-based science philanthropist and mother of two children with severe autism, focused on the question of how environmentally induced germline disruptions may be contributing to today's epidemics of neurodevelopmental impairment. You can read about her discovery of her intensive prenatal exposure to synthetic hormone drugs here. Jill is also president of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area.