Laura Vandenberg's research explores how early life exposures to chemicals and chemical mixtures can predispose individuals to diseases that manifest later in life. Classical toxicology often focuses on how fetal chemical exposures can produce birth defects, an important part of chemical safety.
Her work instead addresses how low doses of chemicals during critical windows of development can alter gene expression, cell differentiation and tissue organization in subtle ways that can lead to adult diseases such as cancer, obesity and infertility. Specifically, she is interested in the class of chemicals termed “endocrine disruptors” and has worked extensively with chemicals used as plasticizers and flame retardants. Her work also focuses on how traditional toxicology assays have failed to identify a number of ubiquitous endocrine disruptors, and how current risk assessment practices can be improved in the study and regulation of this class of chemicals. This is the focus of her year as a Family Research Scholar.