Dioxin Developments

August 31, 2015

Professor Awarded Grant to Investigate Possible Gender Specific Neurodegenerative Disease Link to Prenatal Chemical Exposure

University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Sandra Petersen has received a two-year, $419,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (“NIEHS”) to investigate whether there is a gender-specific neurodegenerative disease link to prenatal chemical exposure.

Dr. Petersen, a professor of molecular neuroendocrinology of┬áreproduction, previously reported that, in exploratory studies, she and colleagues identified a little-known gene, CUG binding protein 2 (“CUGBP2”), and showed that exposure to estrogen compounds and dioxin impairs its normal regulation. Dr. Petersen also indicated that the gene behaves differently in males and females in the brain region that controls ovulation in rodent models.

With the NIEHS grant, Dr. Petersen’s group initially will study whether CUGBP2 dysregulation by neonatal estrogen or dioxin exposure during development in mice is responsible for infertility or subfertility observed in adulthood.

In a statement, Dr. Petersen said that because CUGPB2 regulates neural cell death, the researchers also are interested in determining whether estrogen regulation of CUGBP2 may contribute to the difference rates of non-age-related Alzheimer’s disease seen in men and women.

Dr. Petersen added, “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.”

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