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Your Environment. Your Health.

News Release

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

News Release

Archive - New Contact Information

For more information about this archival news release, please contact Christine Flowers, Director, Office of Communications & Public Liaison at (919) 541-3665.
Tuesday, June 8, 1999, 12:00 a.m. EDT
Contact: Tom Hawkins, NIEHS
(919) 541-1402
John Peterson, NIEHS
(919) 541-7860

NIEHS and Astra Zeneca Co-operate on Arthritis Drug Research

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences ( and Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals ( today announced a partnership aimed at utilizing recent NIEHS research to aid the discovery of new drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and other painful inflammatory diseases.

In the partnership (formalized in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA) the work of scientists at NIEHS in Research Triangle Park, N.C. ( , will be used by Astra Zeneca to aid the discovery of the new drugs.

A number of inflammatory diseases are characterized by the increased presence of a protein called tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF) that helps fight infections but can also be overproduced, causing inflammation and disease.

NIEHS research identified a second protein, tristetraprolin or TTP, that puts the brakes on TNF and its ravages. Investigators at the NIEHS and their corporate partners now seek to develop new therapies for the inflammatory diseases by exploring the function of TTP, which a recent NIEHS study published in the journal Science ( showed inhibits the synthesis and release of TNF from macrophage defender cells and perhaps other cell types.

"This is exactly what these cooperative agreements are meant to do," Perry Blackshear, M.D., D.Phil., NIEHS Director of Clinical Research, said. "We are taking fundamental knowledge about cell biology and, in partnership with scientists in the private sector, seeing how it can be applied to prevent or treat disease."

Dr. Blackshear pointed out that the agreement will not only help the non-profit basic research program at NIEHS, but that new drugs developed through this type of collaboration might benefit patients as well as the corporate partners.


Reports in Children's Environmental Health Issue Suggest: Maternal Vitamins Reduce Risk of Children's Brain Tumors; Endocrine Disruptors at Critical Points Can Hurt Development

  • There is increasing evidence that some environmental chemicals, particularly those that affect the endocrine system, can interrupt neurologic processes during critical periods of development, resulting in significant defects in sensory, motor, and cognitive function.

  • Data collected in eight geographic areas in North America, Europe, and Israel suggest that maternal vitamin supplementation for two trimesters might decrease the risk of childhood brain tumors. The greatest reduction was seen in children under 5 whose mothers used supplements during all three trimesters.

These findings are part of the June supplemental issue published by Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences ( The special issue includes a unique compilation of research papers and review articles devoted entirely to current research on environmental exposures and health outcomes for children. Article abstracts are available to interested reporters free of charge.

Other reports from this special issue include:

  • "Genetic Predispositions and Childhood Cancer"
  • "Relationship Between Ambient Air Pollution and DNA Damage in Polish Mothers and Newborns"
  • "Approaches to Environmental Exposure Assessment in Children"
  • "Prenatal Methylmercury Exposure and Children: Neurologic, Developmental, and Behavioral Research"
  • "Chemicals and Children's Environment: What We Don't Know About Risks"
  • "Pesticides and Childhood Cancer"

The issue is divided into two sections, the first of which includes 12 papers originally presented at a national research conference entitled Children's Environmental Health: Research, Practice, Prevention and Policy, held in Washington, D.C. in February 1997. The meeting was convened by over 200 of the nation's experts in order to outline a research agenda designed to address the environmental exposures that put our children at risk.

The second section contains seven scientific reports presented at a conference on Preventable Causes of Cancer in Children, convened by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( in September 1997 to discuss recent advances in understanding the causes of children's cancers, and to put forth a specific agenda for preventing pediatric cancers in the next decade.

"Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental toxicants because of their greater relative exposure, their less developed metabolism, and higher rates of cell production, growth, and change," writes Dr. Joy Carlson, an epidemiologist with the Children's Environmental Health Network in Emeryville, California, in the introductory section. "The environmental insults of childhood may manifest themselves over a lifetime of growth to adulthood and senescence."

The research papers cover a broad range of disorders - asthma and respiratory diseases, endocrine disruption, childhood cancers, and nervous system and developmental effects - each addresses a larger health issue as it relates to prevention-oriented intervention. These include identification of patterns of environmental diseases, assessment of children's exposures to environmental toxicants, quantification of dose-response relationships, and recognition of critical periods of vulnerability.

"This once-neglected area of children's health is now a top priority for researchers and policy-makers," said Thomas Goehl, Ph.D., science editor for EHP Supplements.

Reporters and the public may obtain the article abstracts by accessing the Environmental Health Information Service at, or may have the full report mailed to them beginning June 8th. Those who wish to obtain free one-day access to the full-length version of these articles should contact Thomas Goehl at 919-541-7961. Regular subscriptions are also available through the Environmental Health Information Service.

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