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Biochemical pharmacology

Reproductive toxicology: current and future directions.


PMID 11755108

Abstract

During the 20th century, there has been an increased risk from environmental by-products that may be harmful to reproductive function in humans. Therefore, as the 21st century begins, it is appropriate to evaluate future directions within the field of reproductive toxicology. This commentary identifies several approaches and developing technologies that would help research continue in a meaningful direction. Four areas for development are suggested, and selected examples of research involved in those areas are discussed: (1) Translational applications: workplace exposures thought to cause infertility in men (1,2-dibromo-3-chloropropane, DBCP) and menstrual disturbances in women (2-bromopropane, 2BP) are given as examples of human effects that have prompted animal studies. (2) Exposure paradigms: extrapolating dosing in animals to exposures in humans becomes complex. Two examples of surprising findings using lower doses are cited: ovotoxicity caused by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and disrupted sexual differentiation caused by the fungicide vinclozolin. (3) Gender differences: predicting variable risk between women and men requires investigation of the effects of reproductive toxicants in both genders. The phthalates provide a good example for this comparison. Whereas di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) is a reproductive toxicant working by similar mechanisms in males and females, di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP) produces developmental effects in males and reproductive tract effects in females. (4) Endocrine disruptors: recent research has identified environmental chemicals that disrupt reproductive processes by altering the actions of endogenous steroid hormones. The endocrine disruptor issue is discussed in terms of evaluation of the actual risk these chemicals may pose in humans.