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Scientist a Week: Cheryl Rosenfeld

Thu, 01/31/2013 - 7:00am
Lily Barback, Associate Editor

Cheryl Rosenfeld. Image: Univ. of MissouriEvery Thursday, Laboratory Equipment features a Scientist of the Week, chosen from the science industry’s latest headlines. This week’s scientist is Cheryl Rosenfeld from the Univ. of Missouri. She and a team researched BPA and learned that their finding did not match previous studies on the chemical.

Q: What made you interested in attempting to replicate prior studies on BPA?

A: We were not necessarily interested in attempting to replicate the previous studies. Instead, we bred the viable yellow mice to generate offspring for behavioral testing. It was only once we started analyzing the breeding records that we realized our findings differed from the previous studies.

Q: What are the future implications of your research and findings?

A: We need to determine what factors might have contributed to our two groups obtaining contrasting results. One potential possibility is that within animals like humans, there are gut also called microbiota that could lead to differences between mouse colonies. Therefore, while our mice are genetically identical to those used in the prior studies, the microbiome may differ between our two mouse colonies. In essence, the fact that we are seeing varying results leads to more questions and opens up new avenues of research to consider.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you found in your research?

A: Besides the fact that we obtained different results, we were also surprised that we obtained an imbalance of agouti offspring compared to non-agouti offspring in the dams exposed to estrogenic compounds. The expected outcome would be that there should have been equal distribution of agouti and non-agouti offspring.

The distortion to agouti offspring suggests that these offspring were at a competitive advantage during pregnancy compared to their non-agouti siblings. All species, including humans, express an agouti gene. In humans, it is predominantly expressed in the fat and pancreas and may lead to obesity. However, the expression of this agouti gene during development may confer an advantage during gestation and under starvation conditions.

Q: What is the take home message of your research and results?

A: Our results suggest that BPA-induced effects on offspring are complex that originally proposed and warrant further examination.

Q: What new technologies did you use in your lab during your research?

A: As part of the studies, we used PCR genotyping for the Avy/a mice, densitometric analysis to determine their agouti genotype and coat color in terms of the percentage of brown versus yellow.

Q: What is next for you and your research?

A: 1) Determine whether BPA might impact the microbiome and account for the different findings between the previous work and our current study.

2) Determine what may be the advantage of possessing an agouti gene under certain environmental conditions, including exposure during pregnancy to endocrine disrupting compounds.

3) Examine the effects of BPA on various behaviors in rodents.

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