Researchers claim that embryonic stem cells can help in studying the effects of pollution on human health.
In the study, the researchers from the University of California have successfully detailed the use of stem cells to gauge the neurotoxicity effects of the environmental pollutant Bisphenol A (BPA).
The researchers used a combination of biochemical and cell-based assays to examine the gene expression profile during the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells upon treatment with BPA, a compound known to cause heart disease, diabetes and developmental abnormalities in humans.
They were able to detect and measure the BPA toxicity toward the proper specification of primary germ layers, such as endoderm and ectoderm, and the establishment of neural progenitor cells. These results indicate that BPA may alter embryonic development in vivo.
Lead researcher Francesco Faiola of the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology said that embryonic stem cells had a huge benefit because they offered the advantage to grow indefinitely in dishes yet possess the ability to differentiate to mimic embryonic development and virtually into any kind of cells of an adult organism.
Faiola added that they could be utilised in developmental toxicity assays, without the need of animal experiments.
He further said that their stem cell toxicology system proved to be very sensitive and reflective of the physiological toxic effects of BPA.
Faiola added that this system could be applied to assess numerous other pollutants for their toxicity and/or lethality without the expenses of time-consuming animal models.
The study is published in the Journal of Environmental Sciences.