Superfund Research Program
NIEHS Workshop Addresses Challenges for Determining Health Effects of Mixtures
An NIEHS workshop in July, Statistical Approaches for Assessing Health Effects of Environmental Chemical Mixtures in Epidemiology Studies, brought together experts in the fields of epidemiology, biostatistics, and toxicology to identify, develop, refine, and disseminate methods for quantifying the health effects of environmental chemical mixtures. The goals of this workshop are also critical to the NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP), which provides support for research that must address risk from the multiple contaminants found at hazardous waste sites.
Prior to the workshop, participants were asked to work in multidisciplinary teams to develop simulated mixtures databases to test statistical approaches. They were then provided data sets containing human health data and relevant mixtures and asked to analyze the data sets using their specific approach. The different approaches for assessing health effects of mixtures were then presented at the workshop.
The SRP became involved in the workshop because of the need to develop the data sets sent to participants for analysis before the meeting. Boston University SRP Center grantee Tom Webster, D.Sc., and Chris Gennings, Ph.D., professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, were both on the workshop planning committee and took up to the challenge. With supplemental SRP funding, they developed the data sets for the workshop and made them publically available for future users.
This interactive workshop led to discussions about the benefits and drawback of each of the statistical approaches brought to the meeting. Researchers put their expertise to the test to help determine the best approaches to disentangle the combined biological effects of exposure to mixtures from epidemiology, statistics, and toxicology points of view.
SRP Representation at the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable
Superfund Research Program (SRP)-funded researcher Michelle Lorah, Ph.D., and SRP Health Scientist Administrator Heather Henry, Ph.D., were featured at the Federal Remediation Technologies Roundtable (FRTR) meeting on June 25. The FRTR meeting brings together federal agencies involved in hazardous waste site cleanup to share information, learn about new technologies, and discuss future directions.
Lorah, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as a co-leader on an SRP-funded individual project based out of Johns Hopkins University, gave a presentation about technologies for biogeochemical and hydrogeologic characterization and their integration for site remediation. She touched on the SRP research investigating chlorinated benzene-contaminated groundwater at the Standard Chlorine Superfund site in Delaware. Henry also provided a brief introduction to the SRP individual research project grants on biogeochemical interactions, as well as small business grants related to hazardous waste site monitoring.
At the meeting, program managers shared information and learned about technology efforts of mutual interest related to hazardous waste site cleanup. The meeting also facilitated partnerships to pursue subjects of mutual interest from different agencies. FRTR members include the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
LSU SRP Co-Hosts Successful Combustion By-Products Conference
The Louisiana State University Superfund Research Program (LSU SRP) Center co-hosted the 14th International Congress on Combustion By-Products and their Health Effects in Umeå, Sweden in June. The conference brought together experts from around the world to discuss topics on the origins, fate, and health effects of combustion-related air pollutants.
Combustion is defined in a wide sense to include all forms of thermal treatment of fuel materials and hazardous substances. The meeting covered basic and applied engineering research related to combustion by-products to develop remediation and detection technologies and to better understand pollutant formation. The meeting also focused on research tied to the health effects of these pollutants, with sessions focusing on legacy pollutants as well as new and emerging contaminants
NIEHS SRP Health Scientist Administrator Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., attended the meeting and gave a presentation on NIEHS scientific highlights related to combustion by-products. She discussed NIEHS research on household air pollution from cookstoves, NIEHS Gulf Oil Spill response efforts, the NIEHS National Toxicology Program, and health effects research and cleanup strategies from the SRP.
In the opening ceremony, Carlin provided a brief history of the Congress, which began with an emphasis on the fate of toxic by-products of incineration before expanding to include health effects research activities, as well as other topics related to combustion. She highlighted the importance of bringing together scientists from different disciplines, such as engineering, chemistry, remediation, and biomedical research. She also discussed NIEHS priorities moving forward, with an emphasis on data science and global environmental health.
The Adel Sarofim Award was presented at the meeting to Kees Olie, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Amsterdam. The award is presented to a scientist for outstanding advancements in understanding combustion processes, formation of combustion by-products, and mechanisms of their health effects.
UC Davis Researchers Find Key Mechanism That Causes Neuropathic Pain
Scientists at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) have identified a key mechanism in neuropathic pain. The discovery could eventually benefit millions of patients with chronic pain from trauma, diabetes, shingles, multiple sclerosis, or other conditions that cause nerve damage.
A biological process called endoplasmic reticulum stress, or ER stress, is the significant driver of neuropathic pain, said lead researchers Bora Inceoglu, Ph.D., of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and Ahmed Bettaieb, Ph.D., of the UC Davis Department of Nutrition. The research article is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research is supported by the Superfund Research Program, as well as other National Institutes of Health grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
"This is a fundamental discovery that opens new ways to control chronic pain," said UC Davis SRP Center Director and co-author Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., distinguished professor at the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Inceoglu, working in Hammock's laboratory, showed that neuropathic pain could be initiated by compounds that cause ER stress and reversed by agents that block it.
The work sheds new light on at least one biological process that mediates neuropathic pain, Inceoglu said. With this knowledge, researchers can now test ER-stress blocking drugs in the clinic and carry out fundamental research on how different types of pain grouped under the name "neuropathic" differ from each other and respond to new drugs.
To learn more about the research findings, see the UC Davis News Page.