Scientists need access to cutting-edge exposure analysis technologies to better understand how environmental exposures can affect health and lead to disease. However, many researchers do not have access to the expensive tools and technologies necessary to accurately measure, record, and analyze environmental exposures.
To help fill this gap, NIEHS has established a centralized network of exposure analysis tools, services, and expertise to support NIH-funded researchers studying human health. These resources, available through the Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) and Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR) infrastructure, will improve our understanding of how the environment affects human biology and health. These resources also provide an avenue for scientists already studying human health to expand their research to consider environmental impacts.
NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
"Technology advances have become a powerful driver in studying and understanding the start and spread of disease," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "These projects will expand the toolbox available to researchers to improve our ability to characterize environmental exposures, understand how environmental exposures affect in utero development and function, and bolster the infrastructure for exposure research."
Children's Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR)
Children’s health and wellbeing are influenced by interactions between environmental and genetic factors. NIEHS established the CHEAR infrastructure in 2015 to provide the extramural research community access to laboratory and data analyses that add or expand the inclusion of environmental exposures in children’s health research. The goal of CHEAR is to provide tools so researchers can assess the full range of environmental exposures which may affect children’s health. We anticipate that CHEAR will be used by children’s health researchers conducting epidemiological or clinical studies that currently have limited consideration of environmental exposures, or those who have collected exposure data but seek more extensive analyses.
CHEAR is intended to:
- Expand the number of studies that include environmental exposure analysis,
- Implement the exposome concept in children’s health studies,
- Create a public resource of children’s exposures across the country, and
- Develop data and metadata standards for the environmental health sciences community.
The CHEAR infrastructure is comprised of three distinct units:
- National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network (Lab Network or Hubs, RFA-ES-15-009) – A network of laboratories providing access to state-of-the-art infrastructure for analysis of biological samples as well as understanding biological responses associated with those exposures.
- Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center (Data Center, RFA-ES-15-010) – A data and analytics support resource providing a repository for all data and support for statistical analysis and interpretation. This resource will also lead the development of community based data standards and support the development of technologies and metadata standards.
- Coordinating Center (RFA-ES-15-011) – A coordinating Center providing administrative management of the resource including an interface to the research community and an index of additional exposure analysis tools not included within the CHEAR infrastructure. The main access to CHEAR is through the Coordinating Center which will provide pre-application consulting services in support of study design and analysis, as well as develop and oversee a proposal process.
To date, CHEAR has supported more than 30 children’s health studies in which nearly 50,000 samples were analyzed for a broad range of environmental exposures and associated biological responses. Health outcomes explored through CHEAR include asthma, diabetes, autism, and obesity. Biological samples have been analyzed for phthalates, phenols, metals, PFAS — Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, flame retardants, and more. In addition, CHEAR uses an untargeted approach to screen for hundreds to thousands of chemicals at once, without specifying them ahead of time.
As CHEAR draws to a close, the program will continue performing laboratory and data analyses for already approved studies but is no longer accepting applications. Researchers will have another opportunity to apply for environmental exposure analytical services through the Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR).
Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR)
In 2019, NIEHS will build upon the success of CHEAR by offering exposure analysis resources to researchers studying health outcomes that occur later in life. The expanded program, called the Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR), will provide a larger community of researchers access to centralized, high-quality exposure assessment services. This will allow researchers to better understand the influence of environment on health throughout the life-course and eventually support more comprehensive assessment of the developmental origins of health and disease.
HHEAR is made up of three main components:
- Network of Exposure Analysis Laboratories (Lab Hubs): A network of exposure analysis labs will provide access to cutting-edge technologies for analysis of samples collected from NIH-funded human health studies. HHEAR Lab Hubs are grouped into three broad categories:
- Targeted Analysis of Biological Samples (RFA-ES-18-011) - Provide a comprehensive suite of targeted, or hypothesis-driven, analytical services for biological samples.
- Untargeted Analysis of Biological Samples (RFA-ES-18-012) – Assess the exposome in biological samples using untargeted, or discovery-driven, approaches, such as metabolomics.
- Environmental Sample Analysis (RFA-ES-18-013) - Use both targeted and non-targeted methods to analyze environmental samples, such drinking water, that were collected from a human health study with the goal of linking health outcomes to their environmental sources.
- Data Repository, Analysis and Science Center (Data Center, RFA-ES-18-014) – The Data Center will provide intellectual and logistical support for the maintenance, integration, analysis, interpretation, curation, and reuse of data generated by HHEAR to support extramural research projects.
- Coordinating Center (RFA-ES-18-010) – A Coordinating Center serves as the administrative hub and external access point for HHEAR, managing and tracking the flow of projects, materials, and analyses between HHEAR units and participating investigators. The coordinating center will also support administrative functions such as convening HHEAR Steering and Executive Committee meetings, and organizing education, outreach, and publicity activities.
David Balshaw, Ph.D.
Branch Chief, Exposure, Response, and Technology Branch
P.O. Box 12233Mail Drop K3-04Durham, N.C. 27709
Claudia Thompson, Ph.D.
Branch Chief, Population Health Branch
P.O. Box 12233Mail Drop K3-04Durham, N.C. 27709
NIEHS Newsletter Articles
- New resource for children's environmental health research
- NIH launches new programs for children’s environmental health
- Council meeting delayed by snow is productive
- Toxicology and public health merge at SOT conference in San Diego
- September 28, 2015 - NIH Awards ~$144 Million in Research on Environmental Influences on Child Health and Development
- September 28, 2015 - U-M Given $9.5M to Advance Research on Child Health
- September 30, 2015 - Emory Receives $8.3 Million to Establish Research Laboratory
- September 30, 2015 - RTI International Receives NIH Award to Research Environmental Influences on Child Health and Development
- October 01, 2015 - Westat Awarded Children's Environmental Health Grant by the National Institutes of Health