New NIH study examines effect of environmental chemicals on thyroid hormonal systems

Dr. Joe Bisesi and Dr. Chris Martyniuk

Dr. Joe Bisesi and Dr. Chris Martyniuk

Dr. Chris Martyniuk, an associate professor in the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of physiological sciences, and Dr. Joseph Bisesi, an assistant professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of environmental and global health, are collaborating in a new project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health aimed at shedding light on the effect of certain environmental chemicals on the thyroid hormonal system in animals and humans.

Environmental chemical exposures can disrupt hormones in the body, causing adverse health outcomes. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, are chemicals that are used as flame retardants on clothing and furniture. These chemicals are persistent environmental contaminants and can be detected in human blood and urine. One major target of exposure is the thyroid hormone system in animals and humans, but the mechanisms are unclear as to how these chemicals induce hyper or hypothyroidism in animal models and humans.

This NIH sponsored project focuses on a specific thyroid receptor called thyroid receptor beta 2 which is involved in regulating thyroid production in the central nervous system. The researchers, who are both associated with UF’s Center for Environmental and Human Toxicology, hypothesize that PBDEs impact thyroid hormone synthesis by modulating this receptor, which subsequently disrupts downstream production of thyroid hormone. Understanding how environmental chemicals affect the thyroid hormone system is important because thyroid hormone-related disorders are linked to metabolic disruption, and impaired growth and development in children.

“If we can understand how these chemicals disrupt thyroid hormone synthesis, we will be able to better predict how newly developed chemicals with similar structures affect the thyroid system,” Martyniuk said. “This will lead to improved understanding of the health risks associated with environmental chemical exposures.”

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