A first-of-its kind prostate ‘organoid’ grown from human embryonic stem cells has enabled researchers to show that exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical in many plastics, can cause overproduction of prostate stem cells in the developing organ — and thus may increase men’s risk of prostate cancer.
When researchers exposed the developing organoid to BPA, an additive used to soften plastic and found in everything from water bottles to carbonless receipts, the organoid grew an overabundance of prostate stem cells in ‘nests’ throughout the tissue.
“The higher number of stem cells we saw in developing organoids given very low doses of BPA may be the underlying mechanism by which BPA increases the risk for prostate cancer,” said Gail Prins, professor of physiology in the UIC College of Medicine and director of UIC’s andrology laboratory, who led the study.
Stem cells divide infrequently, but they may last a lifetime, carrying forward any abnormalities to all the tissues they give rise to. In theory, the more stem cells an organ has, the greater the risk of mutations that could cause the tissue to turn cancerous.
The new findings support Prins’ previous research. The work is published online in the journal PLOS ONE.