Alexandra Schaffert, M.Sc.
PhD student in the group of Functional Genomics
Focus of Research
Plastics have become a regular part of our lives. However, some plastic additives can leach out of the material and enter our bodies through food and drink packaging, plastic consumer products, toys, textiles, and medical devices. Evidence is growing that plastic additives are related to malfunctions of the endocrine system of hormones, leading to infertility, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and many more.
Because of their lipophilic properties, plastic additives are likely to interact with our adipose tissue. Some of them have structural similarities to natural hormones in the adipose tissue, allowing them to interfere with specific proteins and receptors that regulate critical functions, like the development and growth of adipocytes (fat cells), lipid metabolism, glucose, and insulin homeostasis. By this, the natural balance of metabolic functions is disturbed, leading to adverse health effects. These health effects can contribute to obesity, type II diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome.
What we investigate:
● Adverse health effects of plastic additives such as plasticizers, Bisphenol A and its analogs using proteomics
● In particular, metabolic disruption of human preadipocytes
● And adverse effects on human macrophages (immune cells that are present in many tissues, including adipose tissue)
● Interactions with the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ), which plays a substantial role in the adipose tissue and is a recognized target of endocrine disruption