2021

Project Title: Translocation and deposition of nanoplastics in brain tissues using a novel Raman technique - A collaborative study between Columbia and Rutgers P30 Centers
Principal Investigator: Wei Min, PhD, Assistant Professor of Chemistry
Co-Investigators: Beizhan Yan, PhD, Lamont Associate Research Professor, and Steven Chillrud, PhD, Senior Doherty Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Columbia NIEHS P30 Center; Phoebe Stapleton, PhD, Assistant Professor in Rutgers School of Pharmacy, and a member in P30 Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease (CEED) at Rutgers.
Year: 2021
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract: Numerous studies have demonstrated that our environments including our homes are inundated by plastic wastes. They can be physically broken into microplastics (5 mm – 5 μm) and nanoplastics (5 μm to 10 nm); The smaller end of the nanoplastics (NP) are small enough to be taken up into human tissues and to be directly passed into the brain. However, little is known about the impact of these NP on human health, mainly due to a lack of scientific techniques identifying NP. Some studies using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) have observed a daily exposure of millions of NP through plastic bottles, but SEM is a poor tool for identifying NP from natural environments and in tissues. A recent development in Raman Microscopy by our group at CU Chemistry is game-changing due to orders of magnitude increase in sensitivity and imaging speed. This new technique, called stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, is an ideal tool for identifying NP because of Raman's fingerprinting signals of plastic polymers. The overall goal of this study is to develop an approach to identifying nanoparticles, especially NP, in air and biological samples (e.g., blood) using this new SRS technique. We will also examine the NP translocation to various rat tissues. Dr. Phoebe Stapleton from Rutgers P30 center will conduct pregnant rat exposure experiments.


Project Title: Sources of toxic/carcinogenic metals in electronic cigarette devices
Principal investigator: Norman Kleiman, PhD, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigator: Markus Hilpert, PhD, Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD; Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University.
Year: 2021
Award Amount: $35,000

Abstract: Despite increasing popularity, especially among teens, adverse human health effects of electronic cigarette (EC) use remain unclear. In addition to concerns about nicotine and other chemicals in e-liquid, data from our laboratory, and others, raises concern that EC aerosol contains potentially toxic metals originating from the device itself. For example, the heated wire coil used to generate aerosol may contain chromium or nickel, known inhalation toxins and carcinogens. We hypothesize that specific components of EC devices release toxic and/or carcinogenic metals into the heated aerosol which, upon inhalation, may bioaccumulate in blood, lung, nasopharyngeal, brain or other tissues. We will test our hypothesis and specifically determine which parts of the EC device pose the most risk by analyzing the released metals from individual EC components by: 1) selectively radiolabeling individual parts using Neutron Activation Analysis and 2) analyzing each component’s contribution to the radioactive metal content in the heated aerosol of a reassembled device. We further hypothesize that variations in design and construction of EC components, coil types, and user power settings, significantly influence aerosol metal levels and composition. Findings from this study are likely to inform policy makers, public health officials and consumers about potential inhalation health risks of metal exposures arising from EC use.
 


Project Title: Tracking Hepatocellular Carcinoma Risk Factors Through Adducts, and Mutational Signatures - A Feasible Study of HCC Racial Disparity
Principal Investigator: HuiChen Wu, DrPH, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigators: Yvonne Saenger, MD, Department of Medicine at CUIMC; Regina Santella, PhD, Department of Environmental Health Sciences.
Year: 2021
Award Amount: $30,000

Abstract: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) incidence and mortality rates in the US are increasing, especially among under-represented minority. It is estimated that 20% of HCC cannot be attributed to the major risk factors such as hepatitis virus, alcohol abuse and obesity. Epidemiological studies of exposure to carcinogens and HCC risk are rare at the population level, because information on exposure usually is not available in tumor registries or electronic health records. Biomarkers are useful tools for understanding the prior exposure and cancer risk from the toxicants. Cancer genome analysis has revealed that different carcinogens are often associated with distinct mutational patterns, acting as telltale genetic fingerprints of previous exposures. While some mutational signatures are related to endogenous DNA damage, others are related to specific carcinogens. The goal of this pilot grant is to conduct a feasibility study using aflatoxin as an example to study environmental exposure in HCC racial disparity. We will measure adducts (aflatoxin-albumin adducts) in HCC cases and mutational signatures in corresponding HCC tumor tissues and examine the racial differences in adducts and mutational signatures. Our long-term goal is to understand the underlying mechanisms that explain population-level disparities in HCC.

 

Project Title: The Effect of Prenatal Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) on the Neonatal Meconium Microbiome and Neurodevelopment
Principal Investigator: Julie Herbstman, PhD, ScM, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Co-Investigators: Divya Keerthy, MD, Postdoctoral Clinical Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics; Anne-Catrin Uhlemann, MD, Director of the Bacterial Genomics & Microbiome Collaborative Center; David Bateman, MD, Professor of Pediatrics.
Year: 2021
Award Amount: $30,000

Abstract: The microbiome serves as an intermediary between self and external environment; and environmental exposures can potentially lead to dysbiosis, an altered microbiome, affecting health. Few studies have focused on the association between polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and altered microbiome but both human and animal models support that PAH exposure—particularly prenatal PAH exposure--leads to multiorgan effects, including effects on neurodevelopment.1 and have been associated with dysbiosis of skin microbiota among children.5 We therefore hypothesize that prenatal PAH leads to dysbiosis, which can be measured in meconium, a substance that lines the fetal intestinal track and is excreted as the baby’s first bowl movement. The long-term goal of our research is to understand the role of prenatal PAH on dysbiosis measured in meconium; and to determine if dysbiosis is a potential mediator of PAH-related neurodevelopmental impairments. To accomplish this, we will leverage extant data and previously collected, stored meconium samples from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) Fair Start birth cohort. Pilot data from this application will be used to demonstrate feasibility and to establish a new collaborative team, which will be leveraged to support a future R01 (or K23 for Dr. Keerthy).

 

Project Title: Effects of air pollution on sickle cell disease painful crises and respiratory events in New York City
Principal Investigator: Aliva De, MBBS, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Co-Investigators: Margaret T. Lee, MD, MS, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation; Stephanie Lovinsky-Desir, MD, MS, Division of Pulmonology; Andrew Rundle, MPH, PhD, Department of Epidemiology; Nancy Green, MD, Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Stem Cell Transplantation; Meyer Kattan, MD, Chief at the Division of Pulmonology.
Year: 2021
Award Amount: $30,000

Abstract: Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a blood disorder affecting predominantly African American people. The disease pathology involves several interplaying factors and causing multiple acute and chronic complications. African Americans and minority populations are more likely to live in neighborhoods with unhealthy air quality that may be playing a role in SCD clinical outcomes. The effects of air pollution exposure may be modifying SCD disease mechanisms and have not been extensively studied. We hope to address this gap in knowledge and improve understanding of impact of air pollution exposure on underlying inflammatory pathways, disease activity and lung function in children with SCD. This can help identify potential public health interventions, future directions of research in studying disease pathways and therapeutic interventions.