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Superfund Research Program

November 07, 2014 New

Bhattacharyya to Lead Major NSF Research Program

Dibakar Bhattacharyya
Bhattacharyya is University Alumni Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Kentucky's College of Engineering.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Kentucky)

Superfund Research Program (SRP) scientist Dibakar Bhattacharyya, Ph.D., will lead one of three major research programs as part of a $24 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to the University of Kentucky. Bhattacharyya's program on Advanced Bio-Inspired Membrane Technologies will build upon his NIEHS-funded SRP research focusing on the use of nanoparticles embedded within membranes to break down organic contaminants commonly found at Superfund sites.

The project, funded through NSF's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), with additional matching funds from Kentucky EPSCoR, is called "Powering the Kentucky Bioeconomy for a Sustainable Future." Its goal is to discover and develop engineered bio-systems for energy, environmental, and industrial applications. Along with the membrane technologies program led by Bhattacharyya, the project has two other research programs related to chemical biology for advanced materials and electrochemical energy storage.

With SRP funding, Bhattacharyya's team pioneered the use of membranes embedded with synthesized nanoparticles to break down toxic organic compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls and trichloroethylene. Bhattacharyya's patented membrane system uses enzymes to generate hydrogen peroxide, which is needed for free radical production. The free radicals, along with synthesized iron-based nanoparticles, are used for oxidative dechlorination of the contaminants.

His new work will expand on his SRP research and will focus on how to use membrane technology to break down substances found in plants to make chemicals that can be used for alternate forms of energy.

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November 03, 2014 New

Henry Presents at Wyatt Symposium

Henry with Hennig
Hennig, the UK SRP Center Director, presented Henry with a plaque to recognize her for her contributions to environmental health.
(Photo courtesy of Bernhard Hennig)

NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., travelled to Lexington, Kentucky in October to give a talk at the Wyatt symposium, an annual event at the University of Kentucky (UK) featuring acclaimed speakers on environmental health and disease. Henry, who discussed innovative research and tools in the SRP, was also recognized for her significant contributions to the study and dissemination of information related to environmental health.

In her talk, Henry gave an overview of SRP exposure detection research projects and how these new tools can be used to advance other research disciplines, such as health research, environmental monitoring, and community engagement research projects. She also discussed new directions for the SRP based on the recent NIEHS strategic plan.

According to Henry, integration in health sciences and environmental research is as important as ever. When researchers are developing tools to address environmental problems, it is important to consider end-user or field worker needs. She also emphasized the importance of developing new technologies to support the exposome, mixtures, rapid screening, and disaster response.

The symposium is supported by the John P. Wyatt Traveling Fellowship, awarded biennially to researchers at UK for the purpose of studying and disseminating information related to environmentally-caused diseases. This year, UK SRP Center researchers Andrew Morris, Ph.D., Bernhard Hennig, Ph.D., and Kevin Pearson, Ph.D., were awarded the fellowship to organize the symposium.  In addition to Henry, the organizers also hosted Tomas Trnovec, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of environmental medicine at Slovak Medical University in Bratislava, Slovakia, to speak on his research related to exposure to persistent organic pollutants early in life and associated disease risks. The symposium also featured speakers from UK including Hong Huang, Ph.D., Stuart Jarett, Ph.D., and Marissa Hooper.

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October 28, 2014 New

BU SRP Researchers Team Up with Other Scientists to Study Breast Cancer and the Environment

David Sherr, Ph.D.,  in the lab
Sherr’s research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that initiate and maintain breast cancer and on the effects of environmental chemicals on these processes.
(Photo courtesy of BU)

Five renowned researchers, led by Boston University Superfund Research Program (BU SRP) director David Sherr, Ph.D., are joining forces to better understand the man-made chemicals that contribute to breast cancer, according to the Boston Globe. The researchers were awarded a three-year, $5 million grant from ART beCAUSE, a breast cancer foundation, to examine whether commonly found chemicals are contributing to high nationwide rates of breast cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer will be the second-most-diagnosed and the third-deadliest form of cancer in 2014. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 90 percent of breast cancer cases cannot be linked to a hereditary cause.

“I think what we’re going to be doing is adding the weight of evidence that environmental chemicals contribute significantly to [breast] cancer, more than most people expect,” Sherr told The Boston Globe.

The team also includes BU SRP Bioinformatics Core co-leader Stefano Monti, Ph.D.

Sherr and Monti are collaborating with Gail Sonenshein, Ph.D., and Charlotte Kuperwasser, Ph.D., of Tufts University School of Medicine, and David C. Seldin, M.D., Ph.D., of the Boston University School of Medicine on the project.

Visit The Boston Globe for more on the collaborative research.

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