JUN 09, 2021 10:05 AM PDT

Just how toxic are we talking? Understanding lanthanides with the help of yeast

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences details an exhaustive compilation of the potential toxicities to the human genome from rare-earth heavy metals called lanthanides. Because of their magnetic properties and ability to emit light, lanthanides are commonly used in organic light-emitting displays, medical MRIs and hybrid vehicles, and yet new observations put into question the health risks they could pose. To explore these risks, researchers from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and UC Berkeley employed an unlikely test subject: baker’s yeast.

"Yeast is the smallest eukaryote -- but their thousands of genes represent a great approximation to the gene variants in humans," explained senior author Assistant Professor Rebecca Abergel, who leads the BioActinide Chemistry Group. "What's cool about this study is that it was done with a library of yeast genes, and we could screen the whole genome of the yeast and compare how a normal gene strain versus a gene-deletion strain was actually affected by lanthanide exposure."

This exploration with Saccharomyces cerevisiae and lanthanides lasted almost ten years as Abergel’s team worked within the Yeast Deletion Project to test over 4,000 genes against 13 of the 15 lanthanide metals with the goal of illuminating the relationships between genes and chemical exposures. Their analysis showed that lanthanides disrupt the cell-signaling pathways that control skeletal and neurological processes.  

Seven lanthanides. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

"This study could point us to understanding which lanthanide metals are more toxic than others, and whether someone is more genetically predisposed to lanthanide toxicity," Abergel said, referring to the disturbing finding that some MRI patients experience side effects such as long-term kidney damage linked to their exposure to the MRI contrast agent lanthanide gadolinium.

"This was a massive study showing all the potential pathways affected by lanthanide metal exposure -- but we're just scratching the surface of a huge dataset," she concluded.

Sources: PNAS, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 03, 2021
Neuroscience
A Tree Falls in the Forest: A Neuroscientist on the World Our Brain Creates
AUG 03, 2021
A Tree Falls in the Forest: A Neuroscientist on the World Our Brain Creates
Neuroscientist, Donald Hoffman, thinks a mathematical model will solve the hard problem of consciousness
AUG 09, 2021
Earth & The Environment
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
AUG 09, 2021
New Pterosaur Fossil discovered in Australia
Pterosaur fossils have been discovered in all corners of the globe since their first discovery in Kansas in the 1700s. S ...
AUG 21, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Schools of Fish Inspire 'Microswimmers' that Could Revolutionize Drug Delivery
AUG 21, 2021
Schools of Fish Inspire 'Microswimmers' that Could Revolutionize Drug Delivery
When 'microswimmers'- microscopic objects that can move in liquid environments- move in the same direction insid ...
OCT 01, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Smartphone Technology Could Help Predict Cannabis Intoxication
OCT 01, 2021
Smartphone Technology Could Help Predict Cannabis Intoxication
Cannabis use can affect the body in a range of ways, including slowing response time. A slower response time affects our ...
OCT 13, 2021
Space & Astronomy
NASA Plans to Bring Mars Rocks Back to Earth
OCT 13, 2021
NASA Plans to Bring Mars Rocks Back to Earth
In continuing the time-honored tradition of celestial rock collecting, NASA’s Perseverance rover has collected a s ...
OCT 18, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
New Climatic Data from China Sheds Light on the Emergence of the Dinosaurs
OCT 18, 2021
New Climatic Data from China Sheds Light on the Emergence of the Dinosaurs
The climate is hot and muggy with the world's oceans as hot as a sauna. Also, it just started raining and it will not st ...
Loading Comments...