We have all stood in front of a locked door working through a set of keys to see which one unlocks it. It takes time to try key after key to find one that works. What if we had a few hundred key, and a hundred or so locks to match? I would just give it up. Medical researchers are in this sort of situation in determining which mold toxin binds which hormone receptor: we know of 300 or so mold toxins and are discovering new hormone receptors intermittently. We are aware of a few mold toxins which bind and influence receptors, but testing all of them would take a long time and a lot of researcher money.
Instead, with today’s supercomputers and our understanding of the structure of the various hormone receptors, we can make reasonable predictions which mold toxins will trigger which hormone receptors. In the focus article, Spaggiari et al used exactly this process to identify ochratoxin A, zearalenone, α- and β-zearalenol, aflatoxin B1, and alternariol as potential hormone receptor binders.
Normally, hormones are produced in our tissues and transported to other tissues to convey a message. In order to receive the message, the receiving cells have receptors on the cell surfaces. These receptors are made of proteins and have “locks” for the hormone molecule to stick into like a key. Only hormones that fit the receptor’s lock will trigger a further message to be triggered in the cell. Once triggered, other cell processes magnify the message and enact the cell’s response.
While some hormones can overlap with each other’s receptors, for the most part this system keeps messages from getting cross wired or confused. When another chemical like a mold toxin comes along and has a shape similar to the receptor’s hormone, at times the mold toxin or other xeno-hormones can trigger the receiving cells to enact their response without the actual hormone present. In other cases, the mold toxin may block the receptor from binding the real hormone without actually activating the normal response. Thus, a mold toxin could turn up or turn down the hormonal response.
Since functional medicine providers were already aware of the hormone influences of mold toxins, we should see what else can we glean from this article. First, the article mentions over 300 mold toxins. In treating patients for mold toxicity, our best urine tests measure 18-20 toxins. Under the best of circumstances we still have to use our clinical expertise to determine who has mold toxicity and who does not. Single tests are not the final answer. Instead, combining the patient’s history and a collection of different tests helps determine who needs detoxification.
Second, with this computer-based models suggesting hormonal effects from mold toxins, we should wonder when will we see more research in this field. At most, we hear studies on farm animals since the ability of cows and pigs to reproduce depends on their hormones. That fertility factor greatly influences the profit margins for farms large and small. We need more emphasis in the human research world.
Third and final, we already treat countless patients for hormonal imbalances and infertility due to mold toxicity. We look forward to conventional medicine recognizing this widespread effects on hormonal health in men and women. Until then, we continue to offer open for healthier more abundant lives when other doctors have given up already.
Spaggiari, Giulia et al. “A synergism of in silico and statistical approaches to discover new potential endocrine disruptor mycotoxins.” Toxicology and applied pharmacology vol. 435 (2022): 115832. doi:10.1016/j.taap.2021.115832
Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.