Project Title: Development of mitochondriomic biomarkers for prenatal metals exposure and neurodevelopment in a population of Dominican and African American mother-child pairs.

Principal Investigator: Allison Kupsco, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences.
Co-Investigators: Julie Herbstman, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Maya Deyssenroth, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Martin Picard, PhD, Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine (in Psychiatry and Neurology); Caroline Trumpff, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher in the Picard Lab.
Year: 2022
Award Amount: $30,000

Abstract: Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, but they are also susceptible to harm from environmental toxicants, which can induce oxidative stress that damages mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). In response to increased damage, mitochondria can reduce or increase their mtDNA content and gain mtDNA mutations called heteroplasmies. Cellular mtDNA biomarkers (e.g. copy number [CN]) have been leveraged to address environmental health questions. However, associations between toxicants and mtDNA in blood cells are often conflicting between studies. The recent discovery that circulating cell-free mtDNA (cf-mtDNA) in plasma is a more sensitive indicator of mitochondrial dysfunction, suggests that additional research is needed to determine the suitability of these biomarkers for environmental health. We propose to investigate cellular and cf-mtDNA biomarkers from cord blood in relation to prenatal metals exposure and child neurodevelopment in the Sibling-Hermanos study of African American and Dominican mother-child pairs from NYC. Blood metals levels were measured in a subset of mothers in the 3rd trimester (n=48). Neurodevelopment tests were administered at 5 years. We will examine mtDNA CN and heteroplasmy in cord leukocyte and plasma samples. Our work will establish the associations of each biomarker with metals and their role in children’s health to provide pilot data for a R01 application.

Project Title: Association of human selenium metabolism and urinary selenium speciation with health outcomes in participants of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).

Principal investigator: Kathrin Schilling, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences.
Co-Investigator: Ronald A. Glabonjat, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Trace Metals Lab; Ana Navas-Acien, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Tiffany Sanchez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Steven J. C. Shea, MD, Hamilton Southworth Professor of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology (in Biomedical Informatics); Doris Kuehnelt, Mag. Dr at the Karl-Franzens-Universitat Graz.
Year: 2022
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract: Selenium (Se) is an essential element for the human body to stay healthy, but only when supply is adequate. Humans mainly excrete Se through urine and urinary Se speciation is of particular interest for understanding human bio-metabolism and related health outcomes. Human urinary Se speciation can be influenced by dietary Se intake and genetic variability and is dominated by selenosugars, trimethylselenonium ion, and inorganic Se oxyanions. However, their individual influence on human health and disease remains largely unexplored. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) is a population-based study of non-symptomatic US citizens of nearly 7,000 participants with known health outcomes over almost two decades. We plan to use an already implemented analytical method, currently used for speciation analysis of arsenic (As) in urine, for the simultaneous determination of As and Se species in a single measurement. This study will provide key preliminary data in support of the first large study examining the effect of individual Se species and gene-Se species interactions, rather than total Se only, on human health outcomes.

Project Title: Assessing cultural variation in rice consumption to determine arsenic related health consequences.

Principal Investigator: Lewis Ziska, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences.
Co-Investigators: Julie Herbstman, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Ana Navas-Acien, PhD, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Tiffany Sanchez, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Miranda Spratlen, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences; Jeanine Genkinger, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology; Parisa Tehranifar, DrPH, Associate Professor of Epidemiology; Keeve Nachman, PhD, Associate Professor of Environmental Health and Engineering and Health Policy and Management.
Year: 2022
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract: Rice is recognized as a major contributor to inorganic arsenic exposure, particularly among those who do not consume arsenic contaminated drinking water. Inorganic arsenic is widely recognized as a carcinogen and has been associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although NHANES and NIH have data on rice consumption, that information is limited in terms of race/ethnicity/cultural and dietary practices. Our goal is to assess, in greater detail, differences in rice preparation and consumption across racial/ethnic groups and to determine changes in arsenic related health risks. Such knowledge is crucial to an R01 proposal that is intended to examine the role of a warming, more extreme climate, in exacerbating arsenic levels in rice for different demographic populations. In this pilot proposal we aim to collect two fundamental pieces of information: 1) fundamental understanding of common purchasing and cooking practices, rates of consumption for families for two high rice consuming populations, Caribbean Hispanics, and Chinese Americans, as well as their arsenic exposure from rice; and 2) Because rice varieties and preferences differ among populations, to determine rice sources and to match those sources to seed available from the USDA Germplasm collection for arsenic evaluation.

Project Title: Tampons as a source of pesticide and metal exposure: A novel exposure assessment study.

Principal Investigator: Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, ScD, MSPH, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences; Beizhan Yan, PhD, Lamont Associate Research Professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Co-Investigators: Jenni Shearston, Graduate Student in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences; Kristen Upson, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Michigan State University.
Year: 2022
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract: Menstrual products are used by more than half the world’s population to manage menstrual bleeding. Tampons, a commonly used menstrual product in the US and globally, are made of cotton and rayon and are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual blood. Tampons have the potential to be a critical source of environmental contaminant exposure: (1) tampons are used by 50-86% of U.S. menstruating women; (2) cotton used in tampons is a high-pesticided crop; and (3) environmental contaminants in contact with vaginal tissue can be efficiently absorbed and passed into systemic circulation. Despite the potential for exposure to pesticides and metals with tampon use and the known neurotoxic and carcinogenic effects of these environmental contaminants, few studies have examined concentrations of pesticides and metals in tampons; none have assessed how environmental contaminants are released from tampons into menstrual fluid and absorbed vaginally. This pilot study will provide the first step towards addressing these critical data gaps by evaluating pesticide and metal concentrations in both U.S. tampon products and in menstrual blood in contact with tampons. Findings from this novel pilot study will be used to inform a larger investigation of tampon use as an environmental exposure source in women and associated adverse neurologic and cancer health effects.

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