Dr. Amita Bansal
Dr. Bansal is a basic science enthusiast. After graduating in 2009 from the University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland, Dr. Bansal started her diabetes related journey as a PhD candidate in Professor Frank Bloomfield’s laboratory at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Using sheep as a model, she researched whether preterm babies with high blood sugar levels have impaired pancreatic development and function. She discovered that lambs born preterm had a greater likelihood of developing impaired glucose tolerance later in life.
Dr. Bansal’s PhD training prompted an in-depth understanding of pancreatic development, and introduced her to the emerging field of developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD). Dr. Bansal began to appreciate that not only our adult life habits, but also the events that occur early in life modify our risk of later life metabolic diseases. Knowing she wanted to continue as a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Bansal commenced postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Professor Rebecca Simmons at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Bansal’s postdoc research provided exposure to yet another exciting area of research- the endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) field. In her primary project, using a mouse model, Dr. Bansal explored whether maternal exposure to a common environmental chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA), alters pancreatic function across three generations: Mother to children to grandchildren and to great-grandchildren.
Her research was the first to show that a mother’s BPA exposure impairs pancreatic ß-cell mitochondrial function as well as decreases pancreatic ß-cell mass across two generations in mice. This new discovery shed light on mechanisms underlying abnormal offspring metabolic function following a developmental exposure to BPA.
At Penn, Dr. Bansal is utilizing her combined scientific skills to make ground-breaking discoveries and provide new evidence to unravel the mysterious mechanisms by which early life exposures such as exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals, poor nutrition, or growth restriction in utero impact our later life health and health of our future generations.
Dr. Bansal recently shared her scientific findings with legislators including the office of Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Increasing legislators’ awareness and understanding of environmental health science is important to the development of public policy protective of environmental public health.
How does Dr Bansal’s research contribute to the CEET?
The CEET, as the only Environmental Health Sciences Core Center in Pennsylvania, takes on the vital role of being an essential regional resource for community health. Through multiple collaborative projects, Dr. Bansal supports CEET’s mission of linking environmental exposures and human health and translating findings to improve the health of vulnerable communities.
In her primary projects, Dr. Bansal closely works with fellow postdocs in both Prof. Marisa Bartolomei’s laboratory and Prof. Rebecca Simmon’s laboratory to research how plasticizers such as BPA and phthalate affect metabolic health across multiple generations. Dr. Bansal also explores the effects of BPA exposure on human fetal cells with A/Prof. Sara Pinney, as well as works to understand and explain the transgenerational effects of paternal BPA exposure with fellow post-doc, Dr. Cetewayo Rashid.
What community health concerns does this research address?
This research confronts health concerns about exposure to environmental endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC). As described above, BPA is a very common EDC that we are all exposed to.
BPA is a plasticizer that is found in many commonly encountered items; receipts, canned foods, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, lining of water pipes and dental sealants. We know everyone is exposed to BPA through what we eat, drink, and touch and we are trying to understand how this chemical exposure affects the health of multiple generations.
The findings support the hypothesis that exposure to these chemicals is concerning and increases the risk of metabolic ill health. Recommendations for the public include trying to minimize exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals as often as possible, by not consuming products containing BPA (canned foods, plastic water bottles, and microwaving food in plastic containers), washing fruits & vegetables that could be potentially exposed to BPA, and washing hands after handling paper receipts prior to consuming food.