September 13, 1996
13 Sep 1996: NIEHS Funds New Environmental Health Sciences Centers in Southern California and Texas
Why are some people more susceptible to chemicals?
Why are some people more susceptible to environmental contaminants? Why do some get bronchitis or cancer-and others don't? These are among the questions that will be explored by new centers that the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences today announced it will fund in southern California and Texas.
Both centers will bring together scientists from several institutions in their states, to provide multi-discipline approaches to environmental health science questions.
The University of Southern California will be the headquarters for a center that will bring together more than 40 scientists from USC, University of California-Los Angeles and the California Institute of Technology, all located in Los Angeles. The center will be funded by a $5 million, five-year NIEHS grant.
USC Professor John M. Peters will be director of the new center. He said, "We are committed as a group to interdisciplinary research, and we bring a rich array of resources to bear on these investigations."
He said that the center will focus on human studies rather than on laboratory models. Researchers will study air pollution (indoor and out), pesticides, organic compounds, aflatoxins, radon, passive smoking, magnetic fields, nitrites and bio-aerosols, among other areas. Bio-aerosols include suspensions of pollen, spores, dust mite or cockroach allergens.
The M.D. Anderson Science Park - Research Division in Smithville, southeast of Austin, will be headquarters for the new Texas Center, which will link scientists from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and The University of Texas at Austin. It is funded by a $4.2 million, five-year grant.
John DiGiovanni, center director and associate director of the science park-research division facility, said "The center grant allows scientists from different disciplines to pool their expertise and resources." They'll look at why certain nutrients in foods can prevent cancer and why exposure to specific chemicals causes cancer in some people but not in others.
Researchers will also study environment-related diseases besides cancer that affect organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver and nervous system.
The studies seek greater understanding of why certain chemicals are toxic, as well as how their harmful effects might be blocked.
The highly competitive Environmental Health Sciences Centers grants require that a university or other research institution already have an active, established program in basic or clinical biomedical research in environmental health sciences.
They also must already have a minimum of $1.5 million in grant support for studies relevant to the NIEHS mission.
NIEHS Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., said that the two new centers bring the national network of university-based NIEHS Environmental Health Sciences Centers supported by NIEHS to 17. The Institute also supports five marine and freshwater biomedical sciences centers, and three developmental centers.
Each of the centers has a community outreach and education mandate in addition to its research focus.
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