Engineered E. coli may lead to new drugs, detect pollutants. ‘Bacteria that respond to human hormones – the body’s chemical messengers – may enable the discovery of new treatments for hormone-related medical problems, including thyroid disease and some forms of breast cancer. Developed by Princeton chemical engineers, the sensitive bugs also may detect hormone-mimicking pollutants, which can disrupt normal processes in the body.
Hormones must be present in specific amounts to maintain health. For example, sufficient levels of the hormone estrogen are necessary for bone formation and reproduction, but too much of it has been implicated in premature puberty as well as the development of breast cancer and heart disease. The Princeton engineers hope that the bacteria can shed light on the way hormone-like compounds affect the body and eventually guide the development of drugs that can regulate hormone levels.’