Two UChicago Professors find genetic link that leads to solutions for arsenic toxicity


Two UChicago faculty members, Brandon Pierce (Associate Professor, Public Health Sciences and Human Genetics), along with Habibul Ahsan Louis Block Distinguished Professor of Public Health Sciences spent time in Bangladesh studying arsenic in drinking water and the toxicity it causes to those who drink it. 

Brandon Pierce explains the significance of their findings as he said, "By identifying this genetic variant in FTCD we have provided new evidence supporting the well-established hypothesis that modifying folate intake can boost arsenic metabolism and reduce toxicity risk." Given that arsenic toxicity affects over 100 million people around the world, this has the potential to have a significant impact on the everyday health and lives of many people.

Currently there are several solutions to help reduce levels of arsenic toxicity, including behavior changes such as drinking from water sources that have less arsenic. This finding shows that dietary folate supplementation is a viable option to increase arsenic excretion and thus creates a solution to help decrease arsenic in the body.

In her article on the Forefront Anastasia Beiriger writes, '"In the future, they plan to measure the impact of providing this information to high-risk individuals. The hope, Pierce said, is that this knowledge will "motivate individuals to take exposure-reducing measures, such as switching their drinking source from high arsenic to low arsenic wells and urging their health care providers to enhance surveillance of arsenic-related diseases." Such actions could help mitigate health risks from arsnic exposure in Bangladesh and beyond."'   

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