ETSU Scientist Researching Impact of Hormones on Chlamydial Infections
In an effort to better understand the impact of hormones on chlamydial infections, one East Tennessee State University scientist is researching the ways certain hormones communicate with cells in the body.
Dr. Jennifer Hall, an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at ETSUs Quillen College of Medicine and member of ETSUs Center of Excellence in Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity, has been studying chlamydial infections for several years.
It is the leading bacterial sexually transmitted disease. There are about 3 million cases each year in the United States, Hall said. Most of the time, these infections are found in young women.
With that in mind, Hall has spent a great deal of time looking at the effect of estrogen on chlamydia as well as the role progesterone plays in chlamydial infections.
In the lab, we see that estrogen enhances the infections. Thus, it is possible that when estrogen increases in a womans body, chlamydial infections transmit bacteria more readily, Hall said. Its just the opposite with progesterone. With progesterone, we see a decrease development and production.
Now, through a $10,000 Research Development Grant from the university, Hall is working to figure out why this happens. We are trying to determine what the hormones are actually telling the cells, she explained.
Hall is looking at a specific signaling pathway in the body known as the Wnt signaling pathway that plays a critical role both in a womans menstrual cycle as well as in chlamydial development in cells.
We are investigating Wnt signaling under hormonal conditions that mimic the phases
of the menstrual cycle, she explained. We are looking at whether estrogen enhances
chlamydial infections by activating Wnt signaling and whether progesterone negatively
affects chlamydial development by inhibiting Wnt. Knowing what the hormones do could
help us down the road. Understanding the roles estrogen and progesterone play in chlamydial
infections might help doctors prevent fertility issues that arise from the STD.
Were not at that point now though, not even close, she points out. We are still just seeing how the pathogen interacts with its environment. It is really fascinating.