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Your Environment. Your Health.

December 2018 Superfund Research Program Science Digest

Superfund Research Program Science Digest
Balancing Scientific Excellence with Research Relevance

Hot Off the Press

The Superfund Research Program (SRP) regularly highlights basic and applied research and activities from the program that span multiple disciplines.

Research Briefs

Zebrafish larva next to a machine that tracks zebrafish larvae

Researchers tracked how larvae exposed to different concentrations of OPFRs moved around in 96-well plates in response to alternating light and dark conditions.
(Photo courtesy of Edward Levin)

Alternative Flame Retardants May Lead to Neurobehavioral Effects

Organophosphate flame retardant (OPFR) exposure early in life may be linked to behavioral impacts into adulthood, according to a new study in zebrafish. The results provide evidence that OPFRs, which have been introduced in commercial products in the past decade, may not be a safe alternative to brominated flame retardants, which were phased out because they were found to be harmful to normal development.

PCBs Increase Inflammation, Disrupt Gut Microbiome, and Alter Metabolism

Researchers have discovered that exposure to certain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) can increase inflammation in the intestines, alter normal gut microbiota, and disrupt metabolism. They suggest that some of the observed health impacts of PCBs may be initiated in the gut and that changes in the gut microbiota may offer a marker for pollutant exposures.

Siderophores Reduce Asbestos Toxicity in Soil

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania SRP Center have discovered that natural compounds released from bacteria and fungi in soil, known as siderophores, can decrease the toxicity of asbestos fibers. According to the authors, their results support the feasibility of asbestos bioremediation, or using organisms such as bacteria to degrade contaminants at waste sites.

NIEHS Environmental Factor Articles

Suk Wins Coveted Fulbright to Work in Thailand

SRP Director William Suk, Ph.D., M.P.H., will depart in late December for a six-month stay in Thailand, thanks to a coveted Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He will serve as a Fulbright lecturer in international and public health in collaboration with Mahidol University and its Chulabhorn Research Institute, both in Bangkok. The grant will allow him to pursue a broad environmental health agenda in the region.

Superfund Wetterhahn Award Goes to Stephanie Kim

SRP announced Stephanie Kim of Boston University as the 21st recipient of the annual Karen Wetterhahn Memorial Award. The announcement was made November 29, during the SRP Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.

Researchers standing next to a mobile atmospheric analyzer

The sampling team members are using various tools to test for contaminants after Hurricane Florence. From left, Texas A&M SRP Center trainee Gaston Casillas, Duke SRP Center student Anna Lewis, Entanglement Technologies grantee Tony Miller, Ph.D., former Duke trainee and Wetterhahn Awardee Elena Craft, Ph.D., and Gunnar Skulason of Entanglement Technologies.
(Photo courtesy of Entanglement Technologies)

Researchers Respond Quickly after Hurricane Florence

After Hurricane Florence devastated parts of North and South Carolina in September, current and former SRP grantees hit the ground running to test for pollution. As soon as they could reach areas affected by severe flooding, they took air, soil, and water samples in an effort to characterize contaminants that might be present, including concentrations and likely sources.

PFAS Contamination Spurs University Research Collaboration

Researchers from across North Carolina gathered at Duke University on September 28 for a symposium on an emerging class of contaminants called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). PFAS are persistent compounds that have been found in the environment, including drinking water. NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program currently support several research studies related to PFAS. The symposium was sponsored in part by the Duke SRP Center.

Nanoparticles Offer Low-Cost, Reusable Way to Clean Up Drinking Water

Angela Gutierrez

The award allowed Gutierrez to travel to North Carolina, where she gave a lecture, met with NIEHS senior staff, and networked with local SRP grantees.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Novel technologies using nanoparticles may hold promise for addressing contaminated drinking water, according to Angela Gutierrez, winner of the 2017 Karen Wetterhahn Award, in an October 3 lecture at NIEHS. Gutierrez, who is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Kentucky, provided an overview of her work, including how her cleanup technology was developed and tested.

PAH Cleanup May Worsen Toxicity

According to research by Oregon State University SRP Center grantee Staci Simonich, Ph.D., some of the products formed during the breakdown of pollutants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) may be more toxic than the original compounds. In an NIEHS Keystone Science Lecture held on September 20, Simonich described her work to predict the formation of these PAH breakdown products, measure their presence, and determine their toxicity.

Paper of the Month: New Method Links Metal Mixture to Reduced Fetal Growth

NIEHS grantees determined that exposure to a mixture of metals predominated by arsenic and cadmium was associated with reduced fetal growth. Although previous studies showed independent associations between arsenic and cadmium exposures and fetal growth restriction, this study was the first to demonstrate that the effects of these metals persist even after accounting for the presence of other metals.

Paper of the Month: Caspase-2 Enzyme Implicated in Fatty Liver Disease

University of California, San Diego SRP Center grantees discovered that a protein-cleaving enzyme known as caspase-2 is a major driver of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is the most aggressive form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. They reported that caspase-2 controls the buildup of cholesterol and triglycerides in liver tissue by activating sterol regulatory element binding proteins, the master regulators of fatty tissue formation in the liver.

Progress in Research Webinars

The most recent SRP Progress in Research webinar series featured work initiated by SRP Centers that received grants in 2017. On each webinar, a selection of Centers provided 20-minute overviews of their projects and took questions from audience members. The purpose of these webinars was to facilitate a dialogue between researchers, field practitioners, and stakeholders early on so that new projects are put on a successful path.

Held in August, September, and October of this year, the webinars are now archived and available for viewing:

More information is also available on the SRP Progress in Research website.