Specialties: Epigenetics, epigenomics
In 1997, Abby D. Benninghoff received her B.S. with dual majors in Biochemistry and Biology from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She then completed her doctoral research in Marine Science, with a specialization in comparative reproductive physiology, at the University of Texas at Austin in 2004. Dr. Benninghoff then worked as a post-doctoral research associate at Oregon State University, where she received additional training in the areas of Toxicology and Carcinogenesis. Dr. Benninghoff is currently an Assistant Professor in the Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences department where she teaches courses in Endocrinology and Science Communication. She is also a faculty member of the USU School of Veterinary Medicine where she teaches components of Veterinary Physiology. Dr. Benninghoff is a affiliate faculty member of the USTAR Applied Nutrition Research program, which has a research focus on gut microbiota, diet and health.
A major goal of Dr. Benninghoff’s research program is to understand the influence of environmental factors on mechanisms of gene regulation in determining health and disease in animals and humans. In other words, she focuses on the intersection of nature and nurture by investigating gene-environment interactions.
Projects in her lab fall within two broad program objectives: 1) Determine how modification of dietary intakes of macronutrients, micronutrients and specific bioactive food chemicals may prevent or suppress carcinogenesis, and 2) understand how certain environmental contaminants (e.g., polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, perfluorinated chemicals) interact with the genome, either through receptor activation or modification of the epigenome, to increase cancer risk.
Dr. Benninghoff’s research program has received funding support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The long-term goal of my research program is to understand how chemicals in the environment influence human health and disease, both for the better (cancer chemoprevention) and for the worse (tumor promotion). My research interests are specifically focused on: (i) the role of the estrogen receptor in transplacental cancer prevention by dietary phytochemicals, (ii) the novel role of the estrogen receptor in tumor promotion by a class of environmental contaminants called perfluoroalkyl acids, (iii) transplacental chemoprevention by bioactive food components via epigenetic mechanisms, and (iv) the impact of dietary mixtures on key molecular targets involved in cancer prevention and suppression.
As a Science Communication Fellow with the Environmental Health News organization for 2007 and 2008, the following representative citations are for short synopses or full review articles written for the media and the public to highlight recent, important research in the field of environmental health. For more information about this group, please visit www.environmentalhealthnews.org/2007scicommfellows.html.