Yale Study Shows Estrogen Helps Calm Stressed Cells

Yale Study Shows Estrogen Helps Calm Stressed Cells

New research from Yale University shows that the hormone estrogen helps cells survive stress, fueling speculation that anti-estrogen therapy may help kill cancer cells and prolong the survival of patients.

Stress is as bad for cells as it is for people, but scientists have had a hard time devising ways to study its effects on cells without killing them.

Yale researchers have developed a system that solved the experimental problem and in the process made a surprising discovery: the hormone estrogen seems to help cells weather stress.

In the September 21 issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, the Yale team led by Craig Crews found that the estrogen pathway is activated when cells are subjected to stress. Following up on this study, the team has also discovered that introduction of the hormone can help cells negotiate certain stressful environments. The findings have interesting implications — beyond fueling speculation that estrogen helps women live longer than men, Crews said. For instance, anti-estrogen therapy could help kill cancer cells and prolong survival of patients, he said.

Publication: Kanak Raina, et al., “Targeted protein destabilization reveals an estrogen-mediated ER stress response,” Nature Chemical Biology (2014); doi:10.1038/nchembio.1638

Image: Patrick Lynch

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