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Your Environment. Your Health.

November 2017

Superfund Research Program Science Digest
Balancing Scientific Excellence with Research Relevance

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Hot Off the Press

The SRP regularly highlights basic and applied research and activities from the program, spanning multiple disciplines.

Research Briefs

Activated Carbon Reduces Immune System and Gut Microbiome Effects of TCDD

Breakthroughs from the Michigan State University Superfund Research Program (MSU SRP) Center provide new evidence that activated carbon may be used to reduce health risks resulting from dioxin contamination. Previous studies have shown that activated carbon can sequester dioxins in the environment and reduce their bioavailability to aquatic invertebrates, or the fraction of the chemical that can be taken up by organisms. For the first time, these studies provide direct evidence that activated carbon also reduces dioxin availability to mammals.

Endophytes Help Poplar Trees Clean Up TCE on Superfund Site

Poplar Trees Clean Up TCE

The researchers observed visible differences between the poplar trees with the inoculated endophyte and the poplar trees without (control). Endophyte-assisted poplars experienced more robust growth and increased survival rates. (Reprinted with permission from Doty et al. 2017. Enhanced degradation of TCE on a Superfund site using endophyte-assisted poplar tree phytoremediation. Environ Sci Technol 51(17):10050-10058. Copyright 2017 American Chemical Society.)

A method using endophytes, symbiotic microbes that live within a plant, has been successfully shown to boost the speed and effectiveness of poplar trees to capture and remove trichloroethylene (TCE) from soil. Researchers led by Edenspace Systems Corporation, an SRP-funded small business, conducted the first large-scale experiment on a Superfund site using poplar trees fortified with a microbial endophyte to clean up TCE-contaminated groundwater.

Susceptibility to Arsenic-Induced Skin Lesions Influenced by DNA Differences

New research from the Columbia University SRP Center shows that deletions or duplications of long stretches of DNA, also known as copy number variations, that occur in several gene locations are associated with a higher risk of developing arsenic-induced skin lesions. Skin lesions are a hallmark of arsenic toxicity that appear relatively early with chronic arsenic exposure. This newly discovered link may help to explain why some people exposed to arsenic develop skin lesions and get sick while others exposed to the same levels do not.

Environmental Factor Articles

Unique opportunities to study health effects of arsenic and more

Habibul Ahsan, M.D.

Ahsan said he was excited to see the high levels of motivation, acceptance, and cooperation among HEALS participants.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In a Sept. 14 talk for the Keystone Science Seminar Series, Habibul Ahsan, M.D., described innovative research approaches, such as building strong networks in the community, to help tackle human health impacts from toxicants in areas where resources are low. In 2000, Ahsan and colleagues from the Columbia University SRP Center initiated the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS), a large long-term study in Araihazar, Bangladesh.

Hurricane responses build on community connections

SRP Centers at Texas A&M University and Oregon State University were highlighted as part of NIEHS efforts to help protect health in the aftermath of the August and September hurricanes, as well as efforts to reduce environmental health impacts of future disasters.

Pregnant moms' response to arsenic linked to sex of fetus

How a pregnant woman metabolizes arsenic may be affected by the sex of her fetus, and a male child may be at increased risk for adverse health outcomes. These and other findings were presented Aug. 8 by Elizabeth Martin, Ph.D., at the annual NIEHS Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award lecture. Martin is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill SRP Center.

Risk e-Learning Webinars

This fall, the SRP is hosting a seminar series focused on adverse outcome pathways (AOPs), which are structured ways to represent biological events leading to adverse health effects. The AOP framework was developed as a way to organize biological and toxicological information linking molecular-level changes by stressors to potential health endpoints.

The first session, Introduction to the Adverse Outcome Pathway Framework, was held on Wednesday, Oct. 17. U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) staff provided an introduction and overview of AOPs and discussed the AOP Knowledge Base, which is designed to house descriptions of the biological mechanisms underlying chemical toxicity in a structured manner.

The second session, Assembling and Assessing AOP Information, will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 1:00 - 3:00 pm EST. During this session, speakers will discuss the development of AOPs and how they may be used to support hazard and risk assessment.

More details are available on the SRP Risk e-Learning series page. Risk e-Learning webinars are conducted by the SRP in collaboration with the EPA.