Recent years have brought increased attention to the lasting effects of chemicals we unwittingly inhale, touch and ingest while going about our daily lives. The Experimental Biology (EB) 2021 meeting features the latest research on how environmental exposures affect health. Here are five highlights: 

Study sheds light on health hazards of hog farms

People who work at or live near concentrated animal feeding operations, especially hog farms, commonly face an increased risk of respiratory problems and gastrointestinal diseases. New research from the University of California, Riverside, investigates the mechanisms through which exposure to hog farms may harm health. In studies using mice and cell cultures, scientists found evidence that breathing dust from hog farms leads to inflammation in the airways. The research also suggests that compounds from hog dust increase the permeability of the intestine, possibly by damaging the intestinal lining, which may help explain why farm workers are more susceptible to gastrointestinal disease. The research could help inform interventions to better protect the health of farm workers and people living near large farming operations.

Meli’sa Crawford will present this research online from 2–2:15 p.m. Friday, April 30 (abstract).


Common ingredient in antimicrobial soap and toothpaste linked with inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process our bodies use to heal and fight infections, but chronic or unwarranted inflammation can lead to diseases including arthritis and cancer. Researchers at Tennessee State University report new evidence that triclosan, an antimicrobial compound used in personal hygiene products such as soap, toothpaste and mouthwash, may cause inflammation and potentially increase the risk of associated health problems. The researchers exposed cell cultures to triclosan and measured interleukin-6 (IL-6), a biomarker used to assess inflammation. They found that triclosan exposure caused a substantial increase in IL-6 production over a 24-hour period, with levels peaking at six hours after exposure. The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting potential detrimental effects of triclosan, which can be ingested or absorbed through the skin when using products that contain it, according to researchers. 

Wendy Wilburn will present this research online in poster R318 (abstract).


Cigarettes may pose risk even after they’re extinguished

Health problems associated with smoking and being near someone who is smoking (secondhand smoke) are well established. A new study from Texas A&M University suggests the residual smoke that remains even after a cigarette is put out — called thirdhand smoke — could affect the health of fetuses. The researchers exposed pregnant mice to smoke contaminants from extinguished cigarettes and traced health markers in their offspring. They found that mice exposed to thirdhand smoke in utero showed a significant increase in aggregation of platelets, a component of blood involved in clotting. In other tests, these mice showed markers indicating a predisposition toward cardiovascular problems related to blood clots. Researchers say the study draws attention to the need to further investigate the potential consequences of thirdhand smoke exposure. 

Ahmed Alarabi will present this research online in poster R4465 (abstract). Images available.


Gulf War veterans may be more susceptible to alcohol-induced liver damage

Some veterans of the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War suffer Gulf War illness, a syndrome with a wide range of symptoms thought to be caused by chemical exposures encountered during combat. A new study from Central Texas Veterans Health Care System suggests these veterans may be more prone to liver damage from heavy alcohol consumption. Researchers exposed mice to chemicals similar to those thought to cause Gulf War illness and assessed the effects of ethanol on liver health in these mice, comparing them with mice that had not been exposed to the chemicals. They found that exposure to chemicals caused long-term changes to the liver, including low-level inflammation, suggesting a greater susceptibility to alcohol-induced liver disease. This type of liver disease is associated with heavy alcohol use, but researchers have struggled to understand why some people who drink heavily develop liver problems while others do not. The study bolsters the evidence that environmental exposures may play a role. 

Suyeon An will present this research online in poster R4162 (abstract).  


New evidence suggests role of epigenetic factors in determining anatomy

With the same genetic makeup, identical twins share many similarities. But new research suggests twins show subtle differences beneath the surface, possibly as a result of epigenetics (changes in gene expression) or environmental factors such as nutrition and chemical exposures. Scientists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus examined cadavers donated by a pair of identical twins. Comparing the structures of nerves, veins and arteries in the neck, trunk, pelvis and limbs, they found significant differences in these structures between twins. In addition, some paired structures showed asymmetric differences within a single individual. While the researchers were not able to attribute the differences to specific causes, the study, which is the first to demonstrate unique anatomic variations in identical twins, suggests further research could help elucidate how epigenetic factors may alter our bodies over the course of a lifetime. 

Chelsea Lohman Bonfiglio will present this research online in poster R2536 (abstract).  


EB 2021 is the premiere annual meeting of five scientific societies to be held online April 27-30, 2021. Contact the media team for more information or to obtain a free press pass to attend the virtual meeting.





About Experimental Biology 2021

Experimental Biology is an annual meeting comprised of thousands of scientists from five host societies and multiple guest societies. With a mission to share the newest scientific concepts and research findings shaping clinical advances, the meeting offers an unparalleled opportunity for exchange among scientists from across the U.S. and the world who represent dozens of scientific areas, from laboratory to translational to clinical research. #expbio


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Meeting Link: Experimental Biology 2021