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Researchers Investigating Links Between Chemicals in the Environment and Diabetes

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Researchers from the University of Buffalo in Buffalo, New York, are on the search for data that links chemicals in the environment to an increased risk of diabetes.

Scientists from the university are studying whether chemicals in the environment increase the risk of metabolic conditions by disrupting neuroendocrine circadian functions and altering the release of hormones, including insulin, according to the University of Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (SMBS) website.

Pharmacology and toxicology professor, Dr. Margarita L. Dubocovich, and assistant pharmacology and toxicology professor, Dr. Rajendram V. Ranjarayanan, were awarded a two-year $436,751 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) for the study, which Dr. Dubocovich described as “a hunt for environmental chemicals that affect melatonin’s functions, according to the SMBS website.

Melatonin is a circadian hormone that regulates sleep and circadian rhythms. For the study, Dr. Dubocovich said she and Dr. Ranjarayanan are working to determine whether chemicals in the environment alter melatonin’s ability to tell pancreatic tissues and other tissues in the body that it is dark outside and time for sleep to occur, SMBS reported.

The results of the study could prompt the government to issue regulatory guidelines for suspect chemicals, Dr. Dubocovich said.

“Many of these chemicals are flying under the toxicological radar and have no established guidelines for exposure,” added Dr. Ranjarayanan.

Dr. Ranjarayanan explained that researchers will cull data on millions of chemicals to determine if any disrupt circadian rhythms or cause diabetes. “We are merging our expertise to establish a comprehensive pharmacoinformatics pipeline – which we will call Chem2Risk – to leverage big data toxic chemical exposure,” he said.

Among the chemicals suspected of causing Type 2 diabetes are phthalates, which are widely used in cosmetics, perfumes, industrial paints and solvents. Phthalates were widely accepted and believed to be safe until the mid-2000s, when studies on both animals and humans began to emerge that showed several serious health risks caused by exposure, inhalation or ingestion of phthalates.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is also believed to be a potential contributor to diabetes. The chemical is found in the lining of food cans and used to be found in baby bottles and sippy cups.

“When you eat something with BPA, it’s like telling your organs that you are eating more than you are really eating,” Dr. Angel Nadal, a BPA expert at the Miguel Hernandez University in Spain, told Huffington Post in 2012.

Dr. Nadal’s study, published in PLOS ONE, found that BPA triggers the release of almost double the insulin the body actually needs to break down food. Over time, high insulin levels desensitize the body to the hormone, which can lead to weight gain and later Type 2 diabetes in some people, according to Huffington Post.

Approximately 90 percent of people in developed countries have BPA levels in their blood that are higher than the threshold for causing hormone disruption in Dr. Nadal’s study, Huffington Post reported. disclaimer: This article: Researchers Investigating Links Between Chemicals in the Environment and Diabetes was posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2014 at 2:27 pm at and is filed under Toxic Substances Lawsuits.

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