Study probes effects of environmental chemicals on developing fetuses

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 27, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Do commonly used
chemicals in the environment imprint our babies’ DNA? Can they be linked to
premature birth, birth defects and other adverse outcomes? Can they induce — as
they do in animals – diseases which appear later in life and are heritable
across multiple generations?

That’s the focus of a study under way at Franciscan St. Francis
Health-Indianapolis. The research is made possible by a $295,000 grant from the
Gerber Foundation to Franciscan Alliance Foundation St. Francis Health.

Paul D. Winchester, MD, medical director of neonatal intensive care unit at
Franciscan St. Francis, and Michael Skinner, PhD, professor of molecular biology
at the Washington State University, seek to determine if maternal exposure to
these environmental chemicals may change human genes in subtle but serious ways
in utero and contribute to preterm births, birth defects, reduced fetal growth,
and the onset of adult diseases.

The study will also attempt to determine if the negative DNA imprinting changes
seen in animals exposed to environmental contaminants are also measurable in
humans.

“If animal findings regarding epigenetic imprinting translate into humans, we
expect a groundbreaking transformation in our knowledge of disease prevention
and environmental risks,” said Winchester, who also is professor of clinical
pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and widely published for
his research.

While virtually all pregnant women in the United States now test positive for
the presence of insecticides, pesticides, and herbicides, very little data
exists related to these commonly found environmental contaminants and their
impact on the DNA of developing human fetuses.

Established in 1952, the mission of the Fremont, Mich.-based Gerber Foundation
is to enhance the quality of life of infants and young children in nutrition,
care, and development. The primary focus of foundation grant-making is on health
and nutritional issues affecting infants and young children.

Franciscan Alliance Foundation St. Francis Healthis a not-for-profit,
philanthropic organization established in 1995 for the purpose of raising funds
in support of the programs and services provided by Franciscan St. Francis
Health.

CONTACT: Joe Stuteville, 317-528-7986, 317-946-9930,
joe.stuteville@franciscanalliance.org

SOURCE Franciscan St. Francis Health

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