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Scholar Explores How Everyday Toxins Affect Pregnancy

Posted on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The increase in everyday toxin exposure has gained national attention but how do these contaminants affect pregnancy? Christian Andersen, ARCS Atlanta Chapter Scholar, is determined to find out. Recently accepted into the prestigious 2019 Frontiers in Reproduction (FIR) Course, Andersen will use this experience to expand his research in reproductive toxicology.

Andersen, a third year PhD student at the University of Georgia, studies how toxins affect pregnancy. His research examines Zearalenone (ZEA), a common contaminant found in much of the world’s grain supply, and Doxorubicin (DOX), a frequently prescribed chemotherapeutic drug. ZEA can disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with the exchange of nutrients from the placenta to the fetus. With the rise in products containing these pollutants and countless others, their role in the reproductive cycle is becoming an area of concern.

This world-renowned FIR course accepts only 20 early scientists each year and is a six-week long program offering intensive courses in reproductive sciences. The competitive applicant pool includes junior faculty, postdoctoral and clinical fellows, and graduate students. Held annually in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, at the Marine Biological Laboratory, participants attend lectures, labs, and one-on-one demonstrations with leaders in the field.

“To be a graduate student and be selected out of this group, I feel like all my hard work has paid off,” Andersen said.

Andersen is grateful for support from ARCS Foundation that will help cover his tuition and travel expenses. This funding combined with the immersive environment of the FIR program will increase his understanding of the link between contaminants and the potential risks they pose on pregnancy.

“This isn’t a crowded conference room,” Andersen said. “This is a six-week, hands-on course that will allow me to gain insight and guidance as I work directly with leading researchers in my field. You can’t put a price tag on that.”

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