AMHERST - A University of Massachusetts professor has received a $419,00 federal grant to study how early exposure to estrogen, as well as environmental pollutants called dioxins, may impair the regulation of a certain gene and impact a women's fertility.
She will also look at how any impairment of the gene caused by
exposure to estrogen during fetal development may be linked to
Sandra Petersen, who earlier this year was awarded the Presidential
Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring
by the White House, will use the grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
to continue studies on CUG binding protein 2 (CUGBP2), a little known
gene that she and colleagues identified and have shown that exposure to
estrogen compounds and dioxin impairs its normal regulation.
The grant will help them study how this impairment of regulation
works. Doxins are known to have a disruptive effect on estrogen activity
in the early stages of life, and such disruptions can led to cancer and
other health issues later in life.
"Our findings will provide new molecular insights into how estrogen,
and perhaps dioxin, exposure during development may play a role in
neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases later in life. This
information may help in the development of new preventative strategies
or therapeutic drugs," Petersen said in release.
According to the release, Petersen has found the gene behaves
differently in males and females in the brain region that controls
ovulation in rodent models.
Her group will initially study whether CUGBP2 impairment by neonatal
estrogen or dioxin exposure during development in mice is responsible
for infertility or subfertility observed in adulthood, according to the
Because CUGPB2 regulates neural cell death, according to the release,
the researchers want to determine whether estrogen regulation of CUGBP2
may contribute to the difference in rates of non-age-related
Alzheimer's disease seen in men and women as well.
Petersen, a professor in the university's veterinary and animal
sciences department, is also principal investigator and project director
for two other current NIH grants totaling $3.8 million.