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Your Environment. Your Health.

Emory University

Center for Children' Health, the Environment, the Microbiome, and Metabolomics (C-CHEM2)

Center Overview

Center Location: Atlanta, GA

Public Health Impacts: Multiple toxicants can impact the health of women and their babies, especially those of minority communities. By leveraging data from a cohort of African American women in the metro-Atlanta area, the Center for Children’s Health, the Environment, the Microbiome, and Metabolomics (C-CHEM2) aims to study how the complex interactions between different toxicants may affect infant health and neurodevelopment. These studies may inform interventions to reduce exposure to multiple pollutants in urban, minority populations.

Primary Environmental Exposures: Multiple pollutants and toxicants, including air pollutants, parabens, bisphenol A, phthalates, pesticides, and brominated flame retardants

Primary Health Outcomes: Infant outcomes, preterm birth, and neurodevelopment

Center Details

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Center Investigators

Principal Investigators: Linda A. McCauley, R.N., Ph.D. and P. Barry Ryan, Ph.D.

Pediatric Health Specialist: Anne Dunlop, M.D.
Specialties: Family medicine, preventive medicine

Project 1 Leaders: Dana B. Barr, Ph.D. and Anne Dunlop, M.D.

Project 2 Leaders: Patricia A. Brennan Ph.D. and Jeannie Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Project 3 Leaders: Elizabeth J. Corwin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN and Dean P. Jones, Ph.D.

Community Outreach & Translation Core Leaders: Maeve Howett, Ph.D., APRN, CPNP and Michele C. Kegler, Dr.P.H.

Center Description & Activities

Researchers at C-CHEM2 conduct research to understand the complex interactions among components of the prenatal and postnatal environment — toxicant exposures, the microbiome, and the metabolome — and their impacts on birth outcomes and infant health and neurodevelopment. The human microbiome is representative of microbial organisms that reside in the gut, while the metabolome represents the collection of metabolites and small molecules found in the bodily tissues, organs, and cells.

Environmental exposures among residents of the urban Southeast are likely distinctive from people in other parts of the United States; however, no studies have characterized exposures among minorities within this region from birth. C-CHEM2 leverages data and samples from a newly funded cohort of more than 800 African American women and their children living in metropolitan Atlanta to investigate how behavioral factors and the microbiome impact preterm birth and how epigenetics and genetics affect the microbiomes of study participants. The center also leverages rich datasets and resources within the NIEHS-funded Human Exposome Research Center: Understanding Lifetime Exposures (HERCULES) at Emory, and an interdisciplinary team of scientists with expertise in environmental health, neurodevelopment, maternal-child health, and preventive medicine.

Project 1: Characterizing Exposures and Outcomes in an Urban Birth Cohort (CHERUB)

Project Leaders: Dana B. Barr, Ph.D. and Anne Dunlop, M.D.

In this project, researchers are following an urban birth cohort of African American mother-infant pairs to study pre- and postnatal environmental exposures and the independent and interactive effects of these exposures on the maternal microbiome and health outcomes, such as preterm birth.

Project 2: Microbiome, Environment, and Neurodevelopmental Delay (MEND)

Project Leaders: Patricia A. Brennan Ph.D. and Jeannie Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Researchers in this project are following an urban birth cohort of African American mother-infant pairs to determine how prenatal and postnatal environmental exposures influence the infant gut microbiome as well as neurodevelopment and behavior during the first 18 months of life.

Project 3: Metabolic, Microbiome, and Toxicant-associated Interactions (MATRIX)

Project Leaders: Elizabeth J. Corwin, Ph.D., RN, FAAN and Dean P. Jones, Ph.D.

Researchers are employing high-resolution metabolomics analysis techniques to characterize metabolites and metabolic pathways in biological samples collected from an urban birth cohort of African American mother-infant pairs. Researchers will investigate associations between specific metabolites and metabolic pathways and pre- and postnatal environmental exposures, the maternal and infant microbiome, and infant birth and neurodevelopmental outcomes during the first 18 months of life.

Community Outreach & Translation Core

Core Leaders: Maeve Howett, Ph.D., APRN, CPNP and Michele C. Kegler, Dr.P.H.

The C-CHEM2 COTC is building upon strong, preexisting partnerships within the Atlanta environmental health community to share research findings with local communities in a format that is relevant, accessible, and culturally-appropriate. The COTC is guiding scientists in community outreach and translation and expanding bi-directional dialogue with metropolitan African American women of childbearing age and their families. The core is also developing innovative strategies to translate research findings into practical information that African American families can use to protect their children’s health and is integrating this knowledge into educational programs for health-care professionals.

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