Dr. Dana Dolinoy discusses how early life exposures to environmental exposures like bisphenol A can impact the epigenome. This short take was shot during a break at Keystone Symposia’s meeting on Environmental Epigenomics and Disease Susceptibility held in March 2011 in Asheville, North Carolina.
This video was made possible by support from epigenetics fans at Abcam.
Bisphenol A (BPA) and the Epigenome
So we’re investigating epigenetics as the mechanism that links very early exposures, and in particular maternal environmental exposures, to diseases throughout the life course. So not only adult diseases, but sort of diseases or even phenotypes – so diseases might be too strong of a word – phenotypes that present themselves throughout the life course.
We’re really focusing on bisphenol A, a representative environmental chemical, and we’re studying this chemical from mice to men, because the repertoire of epigenetically modified genes is probably really species dependent. So we take a dual approach: we look at bisphenol A at multiple dose levels, because dose is probably also really important in the aguty mouse model.
“I think of it as somewhat hopeful: if we can identify the places in the epigenome that are disregulated by the environment, we might be able to use nutrition or pharmacological approaches to somehow counteract these negative epigenetic profiles.”
Then we take advantage of some human clinical samples that are available through the University of Michigan hospitals, as well as some really outstanding long-term epidemiological cohorts, to try to figure out the repertoire of genes, and with this huge explosion of epigenomic technology, we’re able now to not only look at one or two genes at a time, but to look at the whole epigenome and see which genes are being disregulated. And it’s really an exciting time to be in this field.
So I think that we know that these epigenetic marks are stable, but they’re potentially modifiable or are plastic throughout time. So I think of it as somewhat hopeful: if we can identify the places in the epigenome that are disregulated by the environment, we might be able to use nutrition or pharmacological approaches to somehow counteract these negative epigenetic profiles. So it gives us hope that we might be able to use epigenetic therapy or nutrition to promote healthy lifestyles.