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Superfund Research Program

December 18, 2014 New

New Technology Tracks Carcinogens as They Move Through the Body

Researchers have developed a method to track the movement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) through the body, as extraordinarily tiny amounts of these potential carcinogens are biologically processed and eliminated, according to an Oregon State Univeristy (OSU) press release.

“Knowing how people metabolize PAHs may verify a number of animal and cell studies, as well as provide a better understanding of how PAHs work, identifying their mechanism or mechanisms of action," said Bill Suk, Ph.D., director of the NIEHS SRP.

Sources of PAHs range from smoked cheese to automobile air pollution, cigarettes, and public drinking water. PAHs have gained increasing interest and scientific study in recent years due to their role as carcinogens. With the new technology, scientists have an opportunity to study, in a way never before possible, the potential cancer-causing compounds as they move through the human body.

The work, done at the OSU Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center, and published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, has been the focus of doctoral research by Erin Madeen at OSU, who did some of this work during her SRP KC Donnelly Externship Award at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“We’ve proven that this technology will work, and it’s going to change the way we’re able to study carcinogenic PAHs,” said David Williams, Ph.D., a professor in the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and study leader. “No one before this has ever been able to study these probable carcinogens at normal dietary levels and then see how they move through the body and are changed by various biological processes.”

For more about the study, see the study article.

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December 17, 2014 New

Microvi Biotechnologies Showcases Innovative Research

Henry with the Microvi project team
Henry with the Microvi project team (left to right): Nikolaus Hlvacek, Casey McGrath, Karen Palizzolo, Henry, Shirazi, Ali Dorri, Ameen Razavi.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

In November, Superfund Research Program (SRP) Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., visited Microvi Biotechnologies to meet the SRP-funded scientists and see their research first-hand. Microvi received an SRP Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant this year aimed at continuing the development of a cutting-edge biotechnology platform to remove contaminants from water.

“It has been exciting to see Microvi’s technology evolve from the feasibility stage, using previous SRP funding, to the product design and manufacturing stage,” said Henry. “Visiting the laboratory gave me an opportunity to see their prototype technology and to understand how it will be applied at upcoming pilot tests on hazardous waste sites.”

Shirazi describes their method for the biological treatment of organic contaminants in water.
Shirazi describes their method for the biological treatment of organic contaminants in water.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

Fatameh Shirazi, Ph.D., is the CEO of Microvi, a biotechnology company that discovers, develops, manufactures, and commercializes innovative solutions in the water, energy, and chemical industries. . The project she leads focuses on recalcitrant contaminants, which means they are resistant to degradation.

“Our multidisciplinary approach to developing this new platform technology will offer a reliable, cost-effective solution to the chronic problem of recalcitrant water pollutants,” said Shirazi.

Microvi developed a MicroNiche Engineering™ platform which tailors the microbial environment to optimize for maximum biodegradation of recalcitrant contaminants, such as trichloroethylene. Shirazi and her team are drawing on material science, applied microbiology, and environmental engineering to treat difficult water quality situations safely and effectively, thereby protecting public health and promoting environmental sustainability.

“Through Phase I and II support, SRP’s SBIR program has helped Microvi take an innovative idea from the bench to the field – a real success story,” added Henry.

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December 11, 2014 New

2014 Annual Meeting Celebrates Research Trainees

The annual meeting of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Nov. 12-14 in San Jose, California was an occasion to highlight trainee accomplishments. The meeting, which attracted researchers and trainees from across the nation, was hosted by SRP grantees at the University of California (UC) Berkeley.

Along with the traditional presentations and plenary sessions, the meeting set aside time for celebrating award-winning students.

Gwenn Collman with Brad Newsome
Gwen Collman, Ph.D., NIEHS Director of the Division of Extramural Research, presented SRP trainee Brad Newsome, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky SRP Center, with the 2014 Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award.
(Photo courtesy of Christie Oliver)

The 2014 winner of the coveted Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award, Brad Newsome, Ph.D., from the University of Kentucky, discussed his work on how nutrition can modulate the effects of exposure to environmental chemicals as well as his research to develop systems that use nanomaterials for removal of contaminants in water supplies. Newsome also reflected on his global health humanitarian work in Swaziland, Africa.

2013 KC Donnelly Externship awardees
The 2013 KC Donnelly Externship awardees gave 10 minute presentations describing the research and findings that resulted from their externships to another SRP Center or a government or state agency. From left: Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., SRP Program Administrator, with KC Donnelly winners Erin Madeen, James Rice, Ph.D., Audrey Bone, Shoreh Farzan, Ph.D., Leah Chibwe, and Vanessa De La Rosa.
(Photo courtesy of Carol Kelly)

The meeting concluded with talks from six KC Donnelly Externship Award winners, who described their experiences and results from an SRP-funded externship at another SRP Center, or federal or state agency.

Four graduate students also received awards for their poster presented in the trainee poster sessions Wednesday and Thursday evening, which featured more than 90 posters from SRP trainees. There were two winners in both the health sciences and the environmental science and engineering categories.

Health sciences poster winners

Alden Adrion, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“Screening Nonionic Surfactants for Enhanced Biodegradation of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Contaminated Soil”

Angela Gutierrez, University of Kentucky<<br> “Development of polyphenolic nanocomposite materials for rapid removal of organic pollutants from contaminated water sources”

Environmental science and engineering poster winners

Peter William Dornbos, Michigan State University
“The Effects of Genetic Variability on the Shape of a Dose-Response Curve: 2,3,7,8 TCDD induced Suppression of CD40L-activated Human Primary B Cells”

Sarah Ann Carratt, University of California at Davis
“Cytotoxicity following naphthalene exposure in microsomal epoxide hydrolase deficient mice”

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December 04, 2014 New

SRP Researchers Determine that Triclosan Promotes Liver Tumor Growth in Mice

washing hands
Triclosan is commonly added to bathroom and kitchen products, such as handsoap, because of its antibacterial properties.
(Photo courtesy of UC San Diego news release)

University of California (UC) Davis and UC San Diego showed that long-term exposure to triclosan promotes the growth of liver tumors in laboratory mice, raising concerns about its safety for humans. Triclosan is a common antibacterial chemical used in a wide variety of consumer products such as cosmetics, soaps, detergents, and toothpaste.

“Triclosan’s increasing detection in environmental samples and its increasingly broad use in consumer products may overcome its moderate benefit and present a very real risk of liver toxicity for people,” said study leader Robert Tukey, Ph.D., of UC San Diego.

In the study, scientists found that triclosan interferes with the constitutive androstane receptor, which plays a role in detoxifying the blood. According to the authors, this interference leads to overproduction of cells by the liver, causing fibrosis and cancer. The study concluded that because of this new evidence, the potential of triclosan to cause liver cancer in humans should be evaluated.

The article, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is available online. For more information on the article, see the news releases from UC Davis and the UC San Diego.

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