Superfund Research Program
Altering the Balance of Adipogenic and Osteogenic Regulatory Pathways from Early Life Exposure to HPCs and AOPEs
Within this project, Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., and her team are trying to understand how specific hazardous contaminants affect the developing organism, and specifically, how they affect the development of bone and fat cells. Some of these contaminants have a chemical structure that is similar to hormones in the human body, and they have the potential to bind and activate specific pathways in a way that can perturb development. There is increasing concern that exposures to these hormone-mimicking compounds may be associated with obesity and or bone related diseases such as osteoporosis. Through research, the team is using the zebrafish and medaka as models to answer these questions.
Over the past year, Stapleton and her team have demonstrated that early exposures to select flame retardants result in adverse effects on both bone and fat development. With fish models, the researchers established that flame retardants profoundly alter the course of skeletal development resulting in osteogenic effects that mimic improper spinal growth and development. In a human stem cell model, the team showed that select flame retardants promote formation of fat depots which may be associated with enhanced accumulation of adipose (fat).