Packaging chemical may affect central nervous system: Study

25 February 2013 (Last Updated February 25th, 2013 18:30)

A new study has found that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical which is widely used in plastic packaging and food containers, may affect the central nervous system by interfering with a key gene involved in nerve cells development.

A new study has found that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical which is widely used in plastic packaging and food containers, may affect the central nervous system by interfering with a key gene involved in nerve cell development.

According to the study, led by researchers at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham, North Carolina, BPA can be found in a variety of manufactured products.

Products may include thermal printer paper, plastic water bottles and the lining of metal cans. If the chemical finds its way into the contents of food and beverage containers, it can be ingested.

A series of experiments have been developed by the research team in rodent and human nerve cells to learn how the chemical induces changes that disrupt gene regulation.

High levels of chloride are present in the cells during early development of neurons, but there is a drop as neurons mature.

When neurons are exposed to little amounts of BPA the chloride levels are modified inside the cells by somehow closing the Kcc2 gene, which makes the KCC2 protein, resultantly deferring the removal of chloride from neurons due to presence of MECP2.

Exposure to BPA causes MECP2 to burgeon and binds to the Kcc2 gene at a higher rate, which might help to shut it down, contributing to problems in the developing brain due to a delay in chloride being removed.

The studies show that both male and female neurons were affected by BPA, and female neurons were more susceptible to the toxicity of the chemical.

Duke University associate professor of medicine / neurology and neurobiology Wolfgang Liedtke, MD, PhD said the study found that BPA may harm the development of the central nervous system.

"Our findings improve our understanding of how environmental exposure to BPA can affect the regulation of the Kcc2 gene. However, we expect future studies to focus on what targets aside from Kcc2 are affected by BPA," Liedtke said.

The US Food and Drug Administration banned the use of the chemical in baby bottles and cups in July 2012, following some studies that suggested that infants and young children may be the most vulnerable to the effects of BPA.