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Dr Elisabete Silva

Dr Elisabete Silva
Divisional Lead / Reader in Human Toxicology

Research area(s)

Research Activities:

My main research interests are focused on addressing the hypothesis that the human total body burden of endocrine disrupters is implicated in hormone related diseases, such as breast cancer. Work addressing this issue was carried out during my PhD and postdoctoral fellowship (as part of the EU-funded project EDEN) and included predicting and assessing the estrogenic effects of multi-component mixtures of toxicants representative of human exposure, evaluating low-dose effects and determining combination effects of different classes of environmental contaminants (eg. pesticides and heavy metals).

Based on the observed interactions between estrogenic compounds, I developed a personal interest in the mechanisms of action of estrogens in the breast, and more specifically, in breast carcinogenesis. This interest has been reflected in my work on the effects of estrogens on growth factor signalling pathways and genomic instability. Since 2008, I have been involved in developing and optimising alternative in vitro models which recapitulate the features of the breast and allow the evaluation of potential neoplastic transformations of the mammary gland. By utilising these systems, which include three-dimensional co-cultures of breast cells and organ-on-a-chip approaches, I study the effect of steroidal and environmental estrogens on breast glandular structure, morphogenesis and carcinogenesis. The work described here is carried out in collaboration with Dr Ruth Mackay from the College of Engineering, Design and Physical Sciences and Drs Emmanouil Karteris and Ashley Houlden, from the College of Health and Life Sciences at Brunel Univeristy.  

Building on my expertise on mixture assessment, in 2008, I started collaborating with Dr H Carmo, at the University of Porto, Portugal in a project in forensic toxicology studying the toxicological interactions between amphetamine designer drugs. In this work, the concepts previously utilised for the prediction and assessment of mixtures of environmental estrogens were applied to improve the understanding of the potential toxicological interactions between amphetamines, in the context of polydrug abuse.

Research grants and projects

Research Projects


Investigating the effects of low-dose mixtures of EDCs on breast cancer initiation
Funder: Breast Cancer Now
Duration: October 2016 - December 2016
NERC Doctoral Training - Phoebe Maund
Funder: Natural Environment Research Council
Duration: April 2015 - August 2018
M_Multi-dimensional environment-health risk analysis for Kazakhstan
Funder: British Council
Duration: April 2015 - September 2017
M_Implementation of the Community strategy on Endocrine Disruptors
Funder: European Commission
Duration: December 2014 - December 2016
M_Implementation of the Community strategy on Endocrine Disruptors
Funder: European Commission
Duration: December 2014 - December 2016