NIH Honors Columbia Mailman Studies as "Papers of the Year"

January 7, 2022

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, singled out two studies led by Columbia Mailman School scientists as its 2021 “Papers of the Year.” The pair of papers—among only 35 so honored—were selected from among 3,942 publications by NIEHS researchers and grantees published last year. Columbia tied Duke and Johns Hopkins as the grant-funded institutions with the most papers honored last year.

The Columbia Mailman papers each address timely topics in public health: the health risks of e-cigarettes and strains on hospitals due to extreme weather events.

Diane Re, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences (EHS), and Markus Hilpert, associate professor in EHS, and colleagues reported that mice exposed to e-cigarette aerosol had a buildup of toxic metals in the brain. Exposure also altered brain levels of several essential metals, which play a key role in many biological processes. The findings provide clues about the onset of neurodegenerative diseases, which have been linked to toxic metal exposure and the dysregulation of essential metals. Norman Kleiman was the senior author of the paper. Other Columbia Mailman contributors include Joseph Graziano and Ana Navas-Acien; and EHS researchers Brianna Saglimbeni, Madeleine Strait, Vesna Ilievski, Maxine Coady, Maria Talayero, Kai Wilmsen, Helene Chesnais, Olgica Balac, Ronald A. Glabonjat, and Vesna Slavkovich. The findings appear in the journal Environmental Research.

Robbie M. Parks, a postdoctoral researcher in EHS, and colleagues observed an increase in respiratory disease and other hospitalizations among older adults following exposure to tropical cyclones, including hurricanes. Researchers observed an average increase in hospitalizations from respiratory diseases, infectious and parasitic diseases, and injuries during the week after a cyclone. These increases were larger during the week following a hurricane. According to the researchers, results demonstrate the need for targeted hospital preparedness strategies such as shelters to provide electricity and common medications or to quickly prioritize vulnerable people with certain chronic conditions to find and use resources outside of hospitals. Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou was the senior author of the paper; Ana Navas-Acien also contributed. The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

Says Andrea Baccarelli, chair of EHS: “Our teams conduct highly impactful research that spans from the gene to the globe and has immediate consequences for policies and public health practice. I am elated to be side by side every day with so many brilliant, collegial, and highly recognized scientists. This recognition once again shows the stature of our department as one of the very top environmental health sciences departments globally. We recently became the #1 department for NIH funding in environmental health sciences, up from #7 in 2016. However, today’s recognition is even more critical because it showcases the quality and impact of our scientific output.”