Evolution in a toxic world

How life responds to chemical threats

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SilentAs an environmental toxicologist I am intrigued by the interactions of chemicals both naturally occurring and synthetic with life. How our bodies react whether to lead, mercury, and oxygen or to organochlorines, plasticizers and manufactured nanomaterials. How is it that oxygen is highly toxic yet essential, and why do so many chemicals seem to interact with estrogen receptors – receptors once thought to be highly specific? And then there are the aryl hydrocarbon receptors, first identified through their affinity for chemicals like polyaromatic hydrocarbons, dioxins and pcbs. Receptors that are ubiquitous throughout the body, yet their role in life and their  origin remains unknown.

Evolution. Adaptation. A need for chemical defense.  Could an exploration of evolutionary processes shed some light on these mysteries?

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