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Cover of the Spring 2010 issue




Exploring how estrogen-mimics affect cells

Pamela  Kreeger

Pamela Kreeger view larger image

In everything from children’s toys and plastic bottles to food, agricultural land and our own lawns, humans daily encounter hundreds of natural and synthetic chemicals. Some of these compounds can interfere with the endocrine system and contribute to such adverse health effects as reproductive problems, hormonal changes, brain and behavior problems, impaired immune functions, and various cancers, among others. Biomedical Engineering Assistant Professor Pam Kreeger is developing methods for testing how endocrine disrupters affect cells. In particular, Kreeger is interested in endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone. These chemicals act like estrogen, bind to the estrogen receptors in normal cells, and trigger some — but not necessarily all — of the functions in cells that true estrogen initiates. Cellular responses to the mimics vary. “Our interest is in how they differ,” says Kreeger. “Can we predict a little better what parts of the cellular network will be affected by these different chemicals?”

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