Environmental Endocrine Disruptors: Creating an Advanced Integrative Training Course

January, 2022

Mónica Colaiácovo, Harvard Medical School
Joan Ruderman
, Harvard University
Patricia Ann Hunt
, Washington State University

Over the past 60 years, numerous chemicals originally designed for agricultural, industrial, and consumer purposes have been found to have completely unexpected abilities to mimic or interfere with hormones. Exposure to such endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can affect behavioral, metabolic, or other hormone-regulated developmental or physiological pathways. Animal studies, human epidemiological studies, and wildlife investigations show that low-level exposure to many EDCs can induce a wide range of effects, especially during sensitive developmental windows. These have important implications for public policy. Most academic departments focus only on expertise within narrow disciplines. A comprehensive, integrative training opportunity does not exist. Understanding EDCs and the risks they pose requires biologists and chemists to understand how these chemicals behave in our bodies, their developmental effects, and the molecular mechanisms through which they affect reproduction, behavior, and metabolism. It also requires specially trained public health researchers, epidemiologists, and clinicians to assess human exposure and risk. The newsworthiness of the field attracts close scrutiny and brings academic scientists into contact with the press, regulatory agencies, and industry. Thus, researchers in this field face a range of challenges not common in other disciplines. To fill this gap, we will design abroad and integrative course on EDCs. The resultant advanced level course will be suitable for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early career academics and clinicians. We plan to build a course to be held yearly at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), an institution renowned for its transformative, advanced courses (https://www.mbl.edu/education/courses/).