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Eewa Nånberg

Portrait Eewa NĂ„nberg

Eewa Nånberg is professor of biomedical science. She researches how exposure to chemicals can affect our immune and nervous systems.

Facts:

  • 1957 Born in Stockholm, Sweden
  • 1986 Obtained her PhD in zoophysiology at Stockholm University with her thesis Adrenergic ion fluxes in brown adipocytes
  • 1986–1989 Post-doctoral fellowship and visiting research fellow at Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London, England
  • 1991 Docent in experimental pathology at Uppsala University
  • 2004–2017 Professor of biomedicine with a specialisation in physiology and pathophysiology at Karlstad University
  • 2018 Professor of biomedical laboratory science at Örebro University

Eewa Nånberg’s research is focused primarily on chemicals that can affect the hormone system, so-called endocrine-disrupting substances. Many of these are material components in things like hard plastics. Others function as softeners in PVC and exist in consumer products like packaging and cosmetics.

“Endocrine-disrupting substances are widely found in our environment and are a group of substances that have lately been receiving a great deal of attention. A lot of people are exposed to many of these throughout their lives, in fact already during the embryonic stage,” she says.

Today Eewa Nånberg works with studies of individual endocrine-disrupting substances, mostly phthalates, used as plastic softeners. She also studies compounds of different endocrine-disrupting substances to identify what effects they have on nerve and immune cells.

One challenge is to identify how endocrine-disrupting substances have an effect on the maturation and function of various types of cells and tissues, and thereby even the mechanisms that can explain different health outcomes in various developmental stages and ages.

“Our experimental studies focus on how both acute and long-lasting exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances affect cultivated human nerve cells. Among other things, we look at how it affects central functions in the nervous system, such as cells’ ability to form axons and synapses which transmit nerve impulses between cells.

Eewa Nånberg is also one of the researchers who has worked with the SELMA study, which investigates the link between exposure to endocrine-disrupting substances during the embryonic stage and children’s growth, development and health as well as the risk of developing chronic diseases such as asthma.

“My focus in the SELMA study is the markers for cellular stress and inflammatory response related to asthma and respiratory tract problems. Currently, there is an on-going study where we analyse inflammatory markers in blood samples for a number of endocrine disrupting chemicals linked to exposure during the embryonic stage.”

She points out the significance of identifying mechanisms and model systems that can constitute a basis for test systems for chemicals which do not have acute toxic properties but which affect the function of cells in a longer perspective.

“One challenge is to integrate research with epidemiology, experimental studies and, for instance, computer simulation as a basis for risk assessment in a multidisciplinary perspective.”

In her thesis, Eewa Nånberg examined how the stimulation of stress hormones – adrenaline and noradrenaline – via specific receptors in brown fat control energy-yielding metabolism in cells. She identified several mechanisms and functions for changing the ion flux of calcium, which regulates the activity of a number of enzymatic systems that are vital for cell function.

During her post-doctoral fellowship, her interest in tumour biology began, focusing on how different accessory growth substances via specific receptors on the cell surface regulate the cell’s enzymatic systems and level of calcium ions. These, in turn, regulate cell division.

“Within the research group which I started at the School of Pathology at Uppsala University, we worked on investigating how two enzyme groups, protein kinase C and MAP kinases, cultivated in neuroblastoma tumour cells, could regulate the maturation, growth and formation of axons.”

In recent years, neuroblastoma tumour cells – a tumour that attacks the peripheral nervous system in children – have also been introduced by several research groups from around the world in studies of substances with suspected neurotoxic effects.

“Now, this is one of the models we use for experimental studies of endocrine disrupting substances,” says Eewa Nånberg.

Read more about Eewa Nånberg.