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Alumna to discuss effects of estrogen for Golos Lecture Series

From miscarriages to osteoporosis, the impact of the hormone estrogen is extensive for men as well as women.

Dr. Debra Skafar, associate professor of cellular and endocrine physiology at Wayne State University, will present “From Molecular Modeling to the Placenta: Multifaceted Estrogen and Its Receptor” at 3 p.m. Friday, April 12, in the Honors Tutorial College’s Common Room at 35 Park Place. Part of the Ellery Golos Lecture series, the event is free and open to the public.

An Honors Tutorial College (HTC) alumna, Skafar said her interest in studying hormones and estrogen began in an endocrinology course she took in the Zoology Department at Ohio University.

“It just amazed me that these molecules that are so small could carry out such major effects in the body,” said Skafar. She remembers the university, particularly HTC, serving as the first place where she found a supportive academic environment, which was significant in launching her scholarly career.

Her Golos Lecture will focus on her current research on two estrogen-related topics. The first covers the function of the estrogen receptor, a protein located inside the cell and the site where hormones, such as estrogen, and other drugs bind. Skafar explained that estrogen receptors are significant because they have the ability to alter DNA transcription integral in the biological development in both men and women.

Skafar’s second topic will concern the recently discovered paradox between estrogen and its potentially negative effects on pregnancy. While people have come to associate estrogen with growth in the female reproduction system, Skafar said a recent study showed that high levels of estrogen during in vitro fertilization was bad for the embryo.

She added that estrogen problems in females can not only lead to unsuccessful pregnancies, but also can have an adverse affect on bone growth. Nevertheless, she is optimistic that examining estrogen’s role in the placenta may have real-world benefits.

“If we understand better what estrogen does and doesn’t do, it may be important in preventing [such problems as] miscarriage,” Skafar said.