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Mandal receives grant to study estrogen disrupting chemicals

Subhrangsu Mandal
Subhrangsu Mandal

The National Institutes of Healthhas awarded a three-year, $444,000 grant to a UT Arlington researcher looking for chemicals in the environment that could interfere with normal hormone functions, causing problems with reproduction, behavior and development and fueling cancer growth.

Subhrangsu Mandal, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, will use the NIH money to test items such as commonly used growth hormones, water from various sources and milk for endocrine disrupting chemicals. Endocrine disruptors are a family of chemicals that can mimic and interfere with the activities of hormones such as estrogen when they enter the body.

One such compound, Bisphenol A or BPA, has been in the news recently over worries that its use in plastics could be harmful.

"It's a huge concern because the hormones are a very critical player to life. They control development, disease, everything," Mandal said. "Many of these things are used to produce meat and vegetables because they amplify growth and people do not realize how it eventually can interfere with your normal endocrine pathways."

Mandal's research will mainly look for chemicals that could disrupt the normal function of the estrogen hormone. Estrogen hormones trigger specific gene activities. In some cases, research suggests that too much of these activities can fuel the growth of cancers, especially breast cancers. Studies have also suggested that abnormal estrogen activity can lead to increased risk of conditions such as hypertension, increased blood cholesterol and other cardiovascular diseases, according to Mandal.

Mandal said he hopes his research will arm members of the public with a greater understanding of what risks they face from chemicals in their food and environment.

Mandal was also recently awarded $213,807 from the NIH for a proposal to explore how the biochemical mechanism of estrogen signaling is linked with control Subhrangsu Mandal of blood cholesterol. Though NIH rules prevent him from accepting both grants, Mandal will continue studying that project. Such studies may result in new therapy for cardiovascular diseases.

The awarding of the two grants simultaneously speaks well of Mandal's work, said Rasika Dias, chairman of UT Arlington's chemistry and biochemistry department.

"To my knowledge, such situations are very rare, especially with junior faculty who are in the process of establishing themselves. Getting one project funded is hard enough these days in the present highly competitive environment," Dias said. "This shows that Dr. Mandal is doing cutting-edge, top quality work and a leading researcher in at least two different areas relevant to human health."