Superfund Research Program
SRP Brings Solution-Oriented Science to SOT
Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in San Antonio, Texas, for the 2018 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Annual Meeting March 11 – 15. Grantees and staff gave talks and presented posters highlighting SRP-funded research advances in toxicology.
More than 80 SRP project leaders and trainees from at least 13 SRP Centers presented oral or poster presentations. NIEHS SRP staff members Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., Heather Henry, Ph.D., Brittany Trottier, and SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., were on hand to meet with grantees, view their posters, and discuss their innovative research. An SRP reception also gave trainees the opportunity to network.
Some SRP grantees chaired sessions exploring cutting-edge toxicology research. Texas A&M University SRP Center Director Ivan Rusyn, Ph.D., co-chaired a workshop focused on reducing uncertainty when predicting the toxicity of a chemical based on data from similar chemicals. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Center Director Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., co-chaired a symposium on the role of epigenetic changes on metal-induced diseases. Epigenetic changes affect the function of genes without changing the underlying DNA sequence.
Carlin also co-chaired a symposium titled, "Atherosclerosis as a Model to Understand the Combined Effects of Environmental Chemical and Non-Chemical Stressors." Presentations covered how chemical and non-chemical stressors may lead to atherosclerosis, biological mechanisms of environmentally relevant chemicals, how diet and physical activity may modify atherosclerotic events, and how conceptual models can be created to evaluate complex pathways in this disease. The session included presentations by University of Kentucky SRP Center Director Bernhard Hennig, Ph.D., and University of Louisville SRP Center Director Sanjay Srivastava, Ph.D.
SRP staff were also available in the NIEHS Research Funding Insights Room, where current grantees and applicants could speak with program officers or scientific review officers about the grants process. In a special session on federal research funding opportunities, Heacock presented an NIH grants overview. Following her presentation, former Boston University SRP Center grantee and current NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Science awardee Neel Aluru, Ph.D., described keys to success and lessons learned in the NIH grants process.
For more information about NIEHS at SOT, see the Environmental Factor article.
Additional SOT photos of SRP grantees are presented below, courtesy of Heather Henry:
SRP Grantee Presents NIEHS Seminar on Clinical Intervention for Pain
Renowned scientist and Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantee Bruce Hammock, Ph.D., was invited to present the Immunity, Inflammation, and Disease Laboratory Special Seminar at NIEHS on March 28, 2018. Hammock's talk focused on neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage or disease affecting the body's sensory system, and how findings from his lab are being translated into clinical interventions.
"We currently lack medical tools to address neuropathic pain, and there hasn't been a great deal of interest or ability to come up with new drugs among pharmaceutical companies," Hammock said. "This leaves a critical need for options to treat this pain and improve quality of life for patients suffering from a wide variety of common diseases."
Hammock, who has led the University of California (UC) Davis SRP Center since its inception in 1987, is best known for his discovery of soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH), an enzyme in cells that degrades chemically stable fatty acid epoxides. He described how blocking the function of this enzyme can reduce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, which is an underlying mechanism by which many diseases produce inflammation and pain.
According to Hammock, blocking sEH function — and therefore ER stress — may be a way to treat neuropathic and inflammatory pain, as well as other diseases stemming from ER stress, such as asthma, fibrosis, diabetic neuropathy, colitis, and depression.
Trainee Research Featured in the SRP Poster Winners Webinar
On March 27, 2018, the four winners from the Superfund Research Program (SRP) Annual Meeting's poster competition presented their outstanding research via webinar to an interdisciplinary audience of SRP staff and grantees.
In his opening remarks, SRP Director Bill Suk, Ph.D., said: "The SRP is a firm supporter of training in the broadest possible way within our multidisciplinary framework. I'm really looking forward to hearing from these four outstanding trainees and for this opportunity for them to share their research with all of you."
The webinar provided a great opportunity for people who were not able to view the student posters at the SRP Annual Meeting to hear the winners describe their current research and future directions:
- Stephanie Kim of Boston University described her use of digital gene expression profiling to understand how metabolism-disrupting chemicals alter the characteristics of fat cells.
- The University of Kentucky's Hongyi (Derek) Wan shared how he has developed membrane platforms with iron and palladium nanoparticles to remove polychlorinated biphenyls from water.
- Kelly Fader of Michigan State University talked about how dioxin exposure increases bone mass and decreases fat cells in bone marrow while also disrupting bone resorption.
- Texas A&M University's Meichen Wang discussed her research to develop a broad-acting sorbent that could be used as a dietary supplement to bind to harmful chemicals in the intestine, preventing their absorption in the body and protecting human health.