While exposure to a single substance like DDT has been shown to create inherited disease susceptibility, a recent study in animals found exposure to multiple different toxicants across generations can amplify those health problems.
In the study, published in the journal Environmental Epigenetics, the researchers exposed an initial generation of pregnant rats to a common fungicide, then their progeny to jet fuel, and the following generation to DDT. When those rats were then bred out to a fifth unexposed generation, the incidence of obesity as well as kidney and prostate diseases in those animals were compounded, rising by as much as 70%.
The researchers also found that their epigenetics, molecular processes independent of DNA that influence gene expression, were also greatly altered.
“We looked at multiple-generation exposures because these types of things are going on routinely, and previous research has only looked at single exposures,” says Michael Skinner, a Washington State University biology professor and the study’s corresponding author. “We found that if multiple generations get different exposures, then eventually there’s an amplification or compounded effect on some diseases.”
The study did show that for other diseases, those associated with the ovaries and the testes, the incidence rose in the first generation of progeny but appeared to plateau with the additional generational exposures.
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