Dioxin causes disease and reproductive problems across generations

September 26, 2012

Since the 1960s, when the defoliant Agent Orange was widely used in Vietnam, military, industry and environmental groups have debated the toxicity of its main ingredient, the chemical dioxin, and how it should be regulated.

But even if all the dioxin were eliminated from the planet, Washington State University researchers say its legacy will live on in the way it turns genes on and off in the descendants of people exposed over the past half century.

Writing in the journal , biologist Michael Skinner and members of his lab say dioxin administered to pregnant rats resulted in a variety of reproductive problems and disease in subsequent generations. The first generation of rats had prostate disease, polycystic ovarian disease and fewer ovarian follicles, the structures that contain eggs. To the surprise of Skinner and his colleagues, the third generation had even more dramatic incidences of ovarian disease and, in males, kidney disease.

"Therefore, it is not just the individuals exposed, but potentially the great-grandchildren that may experience increased adult-onset ," says Skinner.

Skinner is a professor of and environmental epigenetics - the process in which environmental factors affect how genes are turned on and off in the offspring of an exposed animal, even though its remain unchanged. In this year alone, Skinner and colleagues have published studies finding epigenetic diseases promoted by jet fuel and other hydrocarbon mixtures, plastics, pesticides and fungicides, as well as dioxin.

The field of epigenetics opens new ground in the study of how diseases and reproductive problems develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, work in Skinner's lab further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through in sperm.

Explore further: Environmental toxicants causing ovarian disease across generations

More information: The study, "Dioxin (TCDD) Induces Epigenetic Transgenerational Inheritance of Adult Onset Disease and Sperm Epimutations," is available at dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046249

Related Stories

Environmental toxicants causing ovarian disease across generations

May 4, 2012
Washington State University researchers have found that ovarian disease can result from exposures to a wide range of environmental chemicals and be inherited by future generations.

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

March 2, 2012
A Washington State University researcher has demonstrated that a variety of environmental toxicants can have negative effects on not just an exposed animal but the next three generations of its offspring.

Today's environment influences behavior generations later: research

May 21, 2012
Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Washington State University have seen an increased reaction to stress in animals whose ancestors were exposed to an environmental compound generations earlier. The findings, ...

Prenatal damage from dioxin shown to involve microRNAs

September 17, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Research carried out at the University of South Carolina has identified novel mechanisms through which dioxin, a well-known environmental contaminant, can alter physiological functions, according to a study ...

Recommended for you

Hibernating ground squirrels provide clues to new stroke treatments

November 17, 2017
In the fight against brain damage caused by stroke, researchers have turned to an unlikely source of inspiration: hibernating ground squirrels.

Age and gut bacteria contribute to multiple sclerosis disease progression

November 17, 2017
Researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School published a study suggesting that gut bacteria at young age can contribute to multiple sclerosis (MS) disease onset and progression.

Molecular guardian defends cells, organs against excess cholesterol

November 16, 2017
A team of researchers at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health has illuminated a critical player in cholesterol metabolism that acts as a molecular guardian in cells to help maintain cholesterol levels within a safe, ...

Prototype ear plug sensor could improve monitoring of vital signs

November 16, 2017
Scientists have developed a sensor that fits in the ear, with the aim of monitoring the heart, brain and lungs functions for health and fitness.

Ancient enzyme could boost power of liquid biopsies to detect and profile cancers

November 16, 2017
Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University ...

FDA to crack down on risky stem cell offerings

November 16, 2017
U.S. health authorities announced plans Thursday to crack down on doctors pushing stem cell procedures that pose the gravest risks to patients amid an effort to police a burgeoning medical field that previously has received ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.