UI Research Reports BPA Affects Fetal Heart Development in Rhesus Monkeys

Thursday, March 6 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – March 5, 2014 – University of Idaho researchers reported Tuesday that fetal heart development in rhesus monkeys whose mothers were exposed to bisphenol A or BPA, a common plastics additive, showed genetic changes that may signal later heart problems.

Gordon Murdoch, an associate professor of physiology in the animal and veterinary science department, led the study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Passport foundation. The results were reported recently in PLOS ONE, an open-access scientific journal.

When the pregnant monkeys were fed fruit containing BPA, their blood and their fetuses’ blood showed increased levels of BPA, according to a simultaneous study by researcher Fred vom Saal at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Murdoch examined the same monkeys and found fetal genetic changes affecting heart health.

“Our results intensify concerns about the effect of BPA in the genesis of human metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, though our current study does not prove a direct link,” Murdoch said.

“Our study was the first to show that BPA affects heart muscle development in primate fetuses,” Murdoch said. His work on muscle development in animals, primarily beef cattle, led him to wonder whether hormones’ important role in muscle development could be affected by BPA, a potential endocrine disruptor.

BPA is found in many products, from plastic and epoxy resins lining food and beverage containers to water bottles. The coating on sales receipts, such as those at gas pumps or grocery stores, contain BPA and are increasingly recognized as a common source of exposure for people, Murdoch said.

Although the study is the first to study BPA effects on developing hearts, Murdoch said, previous studies suggested a correlation between higher BPA concentrations in men’s urine and increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Consumers can reduce exposure to BPA through their choice of products, for example by choosing emailed receipts over ones printed on thermal paper. Choosing frozen fruits and vegetables over canned ones can also be an option, he said.

Murdoch’s co-authors included Kalyan C. Chapalamadugu, Murdoch’s graduate student; Catherine A. VandeVoort of the University of California, Davis gynecology and obstetrics department; Matthew L. Settles, University of Idaho computer science department; and Barrie D. Robison, University of Idaho biology department.

The paper is online at www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0089096