Yuling (Cher) Xie
Postdoctoral Researcher
Institute for Global Food Security, School of Biological Sciences
Queen’s University Belfast

e-mail: Yuling.xie@qub.ac.uk
LinkedIn | ResearchGate

Who is Yuling Xie?

I am a researcher who started working on the toxicology of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) during my Masters of Science studies. I mainly focused on the metabolic effects of EDCs during my PhD and gained experience in assay development and optimisation. Apart from science, I love Chinese traditional dance. You may see me on the stage of a gala show in QUB.

What is your focus in the FREIA project?

Now, I am working on assay development under FREIA project WP3 to develop in vitro assays capable of assessing the potential female reproductive toxicity of EDCs. We are using High Content Analysis to allow high throughput screening of chemicals on estrogen receptor-β signaling and cytotoxic effects on granulosa cells. 

What is an interesting result you have obtained so far? 

Some chemicals that we are exposed to in our daily life and their mixtures, as modelled on relevant human exposure profiles, can affect the healthy function of ovarian granulosa cells by increasing their cell number, or altering healthy metabolism and causing them stress. Many test compounds can also disrupt the estrogen receptor-β which is important in healthy female reproduction.

What would you like to accomplish within the FREIA project?

I would like to further the knowledge of which chemicals can damage female fertility and provide new tools to assess these dangerous chemicals. I aim to do this by developing innovative in vitro bioassays using High Content Analysis to measure the action of chemicals on the estrogen receptor-β, and their cytotoxic effects on granulosa cells. Previously published literature has also shown that lipid droplet formation and lipid metabolism in granulosa cells has been linked to decreased fertility. Therefore I would also like to investigate lipid droplet formation in granulosa cells exposed to EDCs and how this may impact female fertility. What I find out and develop may be used to assess current chemicals and also in future test strategies for new chemicals, giving a tool to remove dangerous chemicals before harm is done to reproductive health.

How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting you/your work?

The University closed for several months and the lab access was limited to constrain the spread of disease. We changed plans for our studies and maximised instrument capacity. Now we are moving from persistent organic pollutants to bisphenols, phthalates, and fungicides to test the different groups of compounds in developed assays. The lipid droplet formation study also started recently. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with the people following FREIA?

The ubiquitous and continuous exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is hard to be eliminated. Not only has it been shown that they effect fertility, EDCs may also result in transgenerational health risks. With FREIA, we are expanding the understanding of how EDCs impact female reproductive function. As said in The Art of War: ‘If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles’.