Exposure to synthetic chemicals found in insecticides may lead to a higher risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes and also affect sleeping patterns, researchers including one of Indian origin have warned.
Synthetic chemicals commonly found in insecticides and garden products bind to the receptors that govern our biological clocks, researchers said.
Researchers at University at Buffalo (UB) in the US suggest that exposure to these insecticides adversely affects melatonin receptor signalling, creating a higher risk for metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
The research combined a big data approach, using computer modelling on millions of chemicals, with standard wet-laboratory experiments.
Disruptions in human circadian rhythms are known to put people at higher risk for diabetes and other metabolic diseases but the mechanism involved is not well-understood.
“This is the first report demonstrating how environmental chemicals found in household products interact with human melatonin receptors,” said Margarita L Dubocovich, Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at UB.
“No one was thinking that the melatonin system was affected by these compounds, but that’s what our research shows,” she said.
The research focused on two chemicals, carbaryl, the third most widely used insecticide in the US but which is illegal in several countries, and carbofuran, the most toxic carbamate insecticide, which has been banned for applications on food crops for human consumption since 2009.
It is still used in many countries, including Mexico and traces persist in food, plants and wildlife, researchers said.
“We found that both insecticides are structurally similar to melatonin and that both showed affinity for the melatonin, MT2 receptors, that can potentially affect glucose homoeostasis and insulin secretion,” said Marina Popevska-Gorevski, who worked in Dubocovich’s lab at UB.
“That means that exposure to them could put people at higher risk for diabetes and also affect sleeping patterns,” said Popevska-Gorevski.
The results suggest that there is a need to assess environmental chemicals for their ability to disrupt circadian activity.
The researchers are developing a rapid bioassay that might be able to assess environmental chemicals for this kind of activity.
“Our approach seamlessly integrates the screening of environmental chemicals through computer simulation, in vitro and in vivo techniques to gauge the risk these chemicals present for various disease end points,” said Raj
Rajnarayanan, assistant professor of pharmacology and toxicology at UB.
The study was published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.