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Your Environment. Your Health.

September 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, spanning multiple disciplines.

Research Briefs

UW SRP Center researchers collect water samples from Lake Killarney

UW SRP Center researchers collect water samples from Lake Killarney, a well-mixed shallow lake in the study.
(Photo courtesy of Kenneth Burkart)

Why Shallow Lake Food Webs May Have More Arsenic 

Lake properties impact the amount of arsenic that transfers from sediments into the aquatic food web, according to a new study by the University of Washington SRP Center. Researchers discovered high concentrations of arsenic in the water and plankton of well-mixed shallow lakes.

Researchers Pinpoint Molecule Fueling Liver Cancer Development 

New research out of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) SRP Center explains how liver cells with DNA damage survive and divide, fueling liver cancer. The study highlights the importance of a family of molecules called CD44 proteins, which are located on the surface of cells. The UCSD investigators found that CD44 allows cells to override the body’s natural protective response to DNA damage.

Researchers Identify Compounds that Reduce Abnormal Blood Vessel Growth in the Eye 

University of California, Davis SRP Center grantees and colleagues have identified key compounds produced when the body metabolizes omega fatty acids that can reduce the severity of age-related macular degeneration in mice. By increasing these lipid metabolites and preventing them from further degrading, the researchers reduced abnormal blood vessel growth, in part by regulating the movement of inflammatory immune cells into the retina.

Environmental Factor Articles

Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D.

Aschengrau examined regions in Massachusetts and Rhode Island affected by PCE contamination in drinking water. The researchers observed that the odds of stillbirth increased as a woman’s level of exposure to PCE increased.
(Photo courtesy of Jackie Ricciardi)

PCE Exposure Linked to Stillbirth Risk, NIEHS Grantee Says 

Pregnant women who drank water contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) were up to twice as likely to have a stillbirth because of placental dysfunction, according to a NIEHS-funded study published July 3. PCE is a solvent frequently used in dry cleaning solutions, adhesives, and other commercial products. The study was led by Ann Aschengrau, Sc.D., a professor of epidemiology at Boston University (BU) and a project leader at the BU SRP Center.

Paper of the Month: Connection Between Genes, Response to Environmental Chemicals 

NIEHS grantees developed a new method to identify individual-level genetic variation in response to chemical exposures. The approach, which linked zebrafish studies and bioinformatic approaches, might help identify new genetic factors that explain differences in chemical sensitivity. The study was supported in part by the SRP Centers at Oregon State University and the University of North Carolina.

Paper of the Month: Computational Tool Predicts Chemical Toxicity 

Texas A&M SRP Center grantee Weihsueh Chiu and colleagues developed a computational tool that uses the properties of a chemical to predict its toxicity. They determined that the tool can predict a toxicity value with an error of less than a factor of 10, making it useful for quickly assessing relative risks of chemicals for which traditional toxicity data or human health assessments are unavailable.

Paper of the Month: How Carcinogens Turn Liver Cells into Cancer Cells 

A study led by UCSD SRP Center grantee Michael Karin explains how DNA damage to liver cells can potentially lead to liver cancer. The researchers looked at CD44 proteins, which are located on the cell surface and are involved in binding with other molecules. They found that CD44 proteins may play a role in overriding the body’s natural protective response to DNA damage.

Paper of the Month: Enzyme Plays Key Role in Parkinson’s Disease 

New research by UC Davis SRP grantees and colleagues suggested an enzyme in the brain plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Scientists demonstrated that inhibiting an enzyme in mice helped curb the inflammation associated with the development and progression of PD.

P. Lee Ferguson

It was a packed house as Ferguson explained his cutting-edge methods to the NIEHS audience.
(Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Environmental Chemistry Goes High-Tech 

P. Lee Ferguson, a grantee at the Duke University SRP Center, develops sophisticated methods to answer questions about the chemicals in drinking water and inside homes. Ferguson described his work as part of the NIEHS Keystone Science Lecture Seminar Series on July 10.

Millions of Dollars Saved by NIEHS-funded Technologies 

More than $100 million was saved through the adoption of tools supported by the SRP, according to a commentary published June 15 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Eight Superfund trainees win K.C. Donnelly Externships 

Eight trainees in the NIEHS SRP have won the K.C. Donnelly Externship Award Supplements. These competitive awards enable fellows to extend their studies to other SRP-funded centers, government laboratories, or state, local, or tribal government agencies.

SRP Progress in Research Webinars

The SRP Progress in Research webinars feature work initiated by SRP Centers that received grants in 2017. On each webinar, Centers provide a 20-minute overview of projects and take questions from audience members. The purpose of these webinars is to facilitate a dialogue between researchers, field practitioners, and stakeholders early on so that new projects are put on a successful path.

In an upcoming session on October 1 from 1 to 3 p.m. EDT, grantees from Boston University, Texas A&M University, and the University of California, Davis will describe their research projects, accomplishments, and next steps. The Boston University SRP Center explores the long-term impacts of early life exposure to Superfund chemicals in humans and wildlife. The Texas A&M University SRP Center focuses on developing comprehensive tools and models for addressing exposure to mixtures during emergency-related environmental contamination events. The University of California, Davis SRP Center uses integrated chromatographic, biosensor, and cell-based technologies to detect and identify contaminants and develop innovative approaches for bioremediation.

If you missed the first three sessions, check out the following webpages to learn more about

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