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EHSC Faculty Attend 2019 Center Directors Meeting in Iowa City

Friday, June 21, 2019

IHSFC Co-Director Dr. Steve Georas attended the EHSC Center Directors Meeting in Iowa City on June 20, 21, 2019 together with Center Director Dr. Lawrence, CEC Director Katrina Korfmacher, new center member Dr. Daniel Croft, and Center Member Dr. Irfan Rahman. At a break out session on translational research in environmental health sciences, Dr. Georas shared our experience with the highly successful IHSFC Translational Mini-Pilot Program. Dr. Rahman also spoke on Human health studies of E-cigarette use at the meeting. Discussants include Dana Haina from UNC and Dr. Judith Zelikoff from NYU, moderated by Dr. Alejandro Comellas.

Rahman

Lemonade Stand Supports Efforts to Cure Childhood Cancer

Friday, June 21, 2019

For the 10th year in a row, Danielle Benoit, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and mentees from her lab will hold their fundraiser in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and its efforts to cure childhood cancer. You can donate online or drop by the lab’s lemonade stand from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Rochester Public Market, 280 Union Street North or from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at the Brighton Farmers Market,1150 Winton Road South.

Rahman is a Leader in the Field of Environmental and Tobacco-related Lung Diseases

Monday, May 6, 2019

Irfan Rahman Designated an American Thoracic Society Fellow

The American Thoracic Society (ATS) designated Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., an ATS Fellow for his research on chronic lung inflammatory diseases. ATS awarded Rahman this distinction to recognize his accomplishments, dedication, and contributions to ATS and to the field of pulmonary medicine. Rahman is an endowed Dean’s professor of environmental medicine, pulmonary medicine, and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and a member of the URMC Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC).

Since joining the URMC in 2003, Rahman has gained international recognition for his research on the prevention and treatment of smoking-induced lung diseases and has published more than 250 papers. Thomson Reuters, a news and information publishing company, recognized him as one of the most highly cited researchers of 2014, 2015, and 2016. He has been a leader in elucidating mechanisms of environmental and tobacco-related pulmonary diseases.

Rahman has also been elected to serve on boards of several esteemed academic journals including Nature Scientific Report, the Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Experimental Lung Research, Journal of Inflammation, and Frontiers in Pharmacology, where he is an associate editor. With ATS, he has served as a program committee member and as chair for numerous symposia sessions on lung disease research. Through community education efforts, Rahman has also educated people about the dangers of smoking and other exposures in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Rahman credits the EHSC with driving the development of his research programs in circadian biology, chromatin remodeling, mitochondrial dysfunction, cellular senescence, inflammation, and oxidants related to the impacts of environmental agents, flavoring chemicals in e-cigarettes, and tobacco products on lung pathology. He noted that the EHSC provided him critical support to generate preliminary data that helped him secure additional funding for his research.

One area of Rahman’s research focuses on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), considered the third major cause of death worldwide. Among cigarette smokers and people who live in polluted areas, COPD is a major factor in declining lung function, and there are no effective treatments to halt this decline. Rahman’s team is identifying specific cellular and molecular pathways that contribute to COPD. He hopes to uncover pathways that may be targeted for treatments and interventions to slow the disease process.

Recently, Rahman has discovered several exciting potential therapies that may prevent tobacco-related lung complications from progressing. For example, in an experimental COPD model in mice, Rahman’s team exposed mice to environmental tobacco smoke and then measured DNA damage and cellular senescence, which is when cells cease to divide due to aging. They compared normal mice to genetically altered mice lacking the gene for histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2), an enzyme that affects DNA structure and gene expression. They found that mice lacking HDAC2 showed greater DNA damage-induced inflammatory responses and lung function declines after exposure to cigarette smoke. In addition, mice lacking HDAC2 had increased markers of cellular senescence. Based on these data, Rahman suggests that compounds that activate HDAC2 might be useful for treatment of smoking-related lung diseases like COPD.

Over the years Rahman has successfully mentored several Ph.D. students and postdoctoral and clinical fellows. He considers the accomplishments of his trainees one of the most important testaments of his scientific and academic accomplishments in pulmonary research.

Rahman’s research is supported by the following grants from NIH: R21ES028006 (NIEHS), R01HL135613 (NHLBI), R01HL137738 (NHLBI), R01DA042470 (NIDA), and U54CA228110 (NCI).

Read More: Rahman is a Leader in the Field of Environmental and Tobacco-related Lung Diseases

Rahman Named One of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of ATS

Friday, May 3, 2019

Congratulations to Dr. Irfan Rahman, who has been named one of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of the American Thoracic Society. 

Chairs

Irfan Rahman, PhD, ATSF

GR Scott Budinger, MD

Louise Hecker, Ph.D

Our main goal is to increase our awareness and disseminate knowledge of the pathophysiological mechanisms of aging in the lungs with interests in terms of basic biology of aging in debilitating lung diseases including critical care and geriatric aging. We aim to thus contribute to the larger mission of the current Interesting Group of Aging.

This group will bring together lung researchers (including early career members, MDs, MD-PhDs, and PhDs) who are interested in understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of aging and age-related lung diseases, and forms a forum for discussion on hallmarks of lung aging and associated diseases.

Objectives:

  • To increase the knowledge of the physiological and accelerated mechanisms of aging in the lungs in collaboration with clinical and critical care geriatric disciplines
  • To enhance overall visibility and advance the knowledge of aging of the lung and mechanisms of age-related lung diseases
  • To target age-associated dysfunction: Advancing knowledge of age-associated therapeutic targets that may promote enhanced repair
  • To highlight the impact on global health burden of age-associated lung diseases e.g. environmental aspect of aging (biomass, wildfire, ashes, diesel exhausts) in all population including geriatric.
  • Age-related diseases development and therapeutic targeting age
  • Dissemination of knowledge by including NIA and NHLBI researchers including critical care research programs
Read More: Rahman Named One of the Founding Chairs of the Lung Aging Research Group of ATS

Jared Mereness successfully defends thesis

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Jared

 

Last week, Jared Mereness successfully defended his PhD Thesis. Since arriving at the University of Rochester in 2012, Jared has worked with his advisor, Tom Mariani, and studied Lung and Pulmonary diseases. During his studies Jared was awarded an institutional T32 Training Grant in Pulmonary Research, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Med-Into-Grad Fellowship in Translational Cardiovascular Research at the University of Rochester.  Jared's research and thesis has focused on describing the role of the extracellular matrix component, collagen 6, in lung structure, and its effects on the function of pulmonary epithelial cells.  His findings broaden our understanding of potential roles this unique extracellular matrix protein may have in chronic lung disease and the development and maintenance of lung structure. Soon Jared will begin a Postdoc position in Danielle Benoit’s laboratory in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Rochester. Congratulations Jared!

For further Reading, please see: PLOS ONE: Type VI collagen promotes lung epithelial cell spreading and wound-closure by Mereness et al.

Jared defending

 

NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lawmakers in the New York state Assembly have voted to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21.

The legislation, which passed the Democrat-led chamber on Wednesday, prohibits the sale of tobacco, as well as electronic cigarettes, to anyone under 21.

"I always thought that we were going to be the generation to stop smoking and then all of these new products came out and we are at step one," said Monica Jackson, a research assistant at the University of Rochester.

She said she doesn't smoke, but some of her friends do.

"I think just educating people and putting it in their heads this is not good for us," she added.

Jackson is part of a team of researchers at the university, including Dr. Irfan Rahman. Dr. Rahman has been helping conduct a study on the impacts of smoking and vaping for more than 10 years. Some of his work has also been published.

"This is really bad for high schoolers and middle schoolers when their lungs are developing, and if they vape it's interfering with lung development," he explained.

When asked about raising the age to buy tobacco and e-cigarettes, Dr. Rahman said it won't do much.

"The problem will never be solved by increasing the age. Overall it will not address the issue of toxicity and diseases," he said.

Throughout the years, Dr. Rahman says he's studied the evolution of different products to consume tobacco and nicotine.

When it comes to research on Juul products, he said, "we found metals such as copper, we published a paper, we found lung injuries, inflammation and stress in the lungs."

The elevated smoking age is already the law in seven states, and several cities around the country, including New York City.

Some people think passing such a law is going too far.

"The idea for them to choose when they finish high school when they become adults it's more applicable, so i think 19 would be more of an applicable age," said James McGuinness a Rochester resident.

Brandon Barr is the manager of Exscape Smoke Shop and Vapor Lounge. He said the age of 21 at least is giving you more life experience, and more of a chance to educate yourself about the thing you want to do.

He said if the law is passed, it likely won't impact his business directly.

"I think convenience stores and things like that probably will because they have more of a high customer volume," he added.

Barr said the topic of education should be at the center of this debate. He said he works to educate all of his customers about what they are buying.

"Some of these very high level nicotine juices if you were to put them in certain kinds of vapes it can put so much nicotine into you - you could get sick," he said.

The measure is backed by Governor Andrew Cuomo, and has broad support in the Democrat-controlled state Senate, where it has yet to be scheduled for a vote.

Cuomo released a statement after the Assembly passed the bill.

"The lifelong health effects and human misery caused by tobacco use cannot be understated and New York needs to do everything in its power to keep tobacco products out of the hands of our young people. That's why I made raising the age of tobacco sales to 21 one of the first proposals of my Justice Agenda and I applaud the Assembly and particularly Assembly Member Rosenthal for taking action on this very important issue today. I urge the Senate to follow suit and help make this a stronger and healthier New York for all."

Julie Hart of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network called the measure "common sense" and said it will reduce the number of young people who become addicted.

Read More: NYS Lawmakers vote to raise the smoking age from 18 to 21 - Rahman Lab interviewed

URMC Study reveals uptake of Vaping flavors among teenagers - Dr. Rahman Interviewed by Channel 8

Friday, March 1, 2019

Vaping flavors may be appealing for the eye and may taste better than smoking cigarettes. But a new study out of the University of Rochester found that vaping is starting to grow in popularity among teenagers.

According to Dr. Rahman, the study also shows an alarming uptake of vaping among youth which could lead to serious health problems later in life. 

The study showed just last year vaping among 6th to 8th graders increased 48 percent and 9th to 12th graders in increased to 78 percent. Doctors said the lungs are still developing during those school years 

"Be defective development, and after the development is complete, then it could lead to complications,” said Dr. Rahman. 

Nowadays e-cigarettes are shaped like a USB flash drive and are easy to conceal. Dr. Rahman says the liquids come in flavors that appeal to youth and can be easily bought online.

“Have to be alerted that these are toxic chemicals in here,” said Rahman. “Smoking or vaping should completely be abolished.” 
  
There is currently a “flavor ban” legislation that could eliminate vaping flavors. For those who support flavors say thousands will return to combustible cigarettes, people would lose jobs and its mainly for adults. 

"I switched from combustible cigarettes to flavors. they tasted better more appetizing to use and more enjoyable.  Ultimately the studies are showing that no more than 5 percent of long term health effects that's what got me to switch from combustible cigarettes personally,” said Ken Gregory, owner of Bad Drip Labs. 

According to Gregory, his business isn’t about getting teens to use their products.  He added the industry is made for adults and teens shouldn’t be vaping. 

Read More: URMC Study reveals uptake of Vaping flavors among teenagers - Dr. Rahman Interviewed by Channel 8

New Study Links Electronic Cigarettes and Wheezing in Adults

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Electronic cigarette use (“vaping”) is associated with wheezing in adults, according to a new study published in the journal Tobacco Control. People who vaped were nearly twice as likely to experience wheezing compared to people who didn’t regularly use tobacco products. Wheezing, which is caused by narrowed or abnormal airways, is often a precursor to other serious health conditions such as emphysema, gastro-esophageal reflux disease, heart failure, lung cancer and sleep apnea.

“The take-home message is that electronic cigarettes are not safe when it comes to lung health,” says Ossip, a tobacco research expert and professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). “The changes we’re seeing with vaping, both in laboratory experiments and studies of people who vape, are consistent with early signs of lung damage, which is very worrisome.”

Researchers from URMC analyzed data from more than 28,000 adults in the U.S. who took part in the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study. After adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, body mass index, secondhand smoke exposure and other factors, adult vapers were 1.7 times more likely to experience wheezing and related respiratory symptoms (such as difficulty breathing) compared to non-users.

Lead study author Dongmei Li, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Clinical and Translational Research at URMC, acknowledges that there are limitations to the study. PATH study data are self-reported, so it’s possible that information collected from participants is subject to recall bias. The analysis cannot prove that vaping causes wheezing; it only identifies an association between the two. Finally, PATH data does not include information on some important factors that could influence the results, such as participants’ diet and physical activity levels.

Despite these limitations, senior study author Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at URMC, says the research clearly identifies another health repercussion from vaping. This is particularly concerning given new data released from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that shows a dramatic uptick in youth vaping. According to the report, in 2018 vaping increased by 78 percent among ninth to 12th graders and 48 percent in sixth to eighth graders.

Read More: New Study Links Electronic Cigarettes and Wheezing in Adults

Falsey, Mariani Secure $3.8 M NIH Grant to Reduce Antibiotic Overuse

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ann R. Falsey, M.D., professor of Infectious Diseases, and Thomas J. Mariani, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics, received a 5-year, $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to search for a better way to distinguish bacterial and viral respiratory infections. The goal of the study is to define predictive genes – using gene expression profiling of blood – that can be developed into a simple point of care diagnostic that can be used by clinicians to discriminate bacterial and non-bacterial illness. Such a test would allow physicians to optimally manage patients with acute respiratory infections, which are a leading cause of antibiotic overuse and are linked to the rise of antibiotic resistant organisms.

The grant is the result of research done as part of the NIH-funded Respiratory Pathogens Research Center. Falsey and Mariani are the co-principal investigators, and Edward Walsh, M.D., Angela Branche, M.D. and Derick Peterson, Ph.D. are co-investigators.

Public health joins dance to put arts into action

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Valeriia Sherina

Professor Katrina Smith Korfmacher, front right, with students in her Environmental Health and Justice course, take a short hike following a tour of the Hemlock Water Filtration Plant. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Last fall, students from a public health course and a dance class got together for a day of combined learning.

In effort to understand how to initiate change in a community, students in Arts and Activism, and their counterparts in Environmental Health and Justice in the Rochester Community, met up in the Linda E. Sloan Studio of Todd Union to create some new moves.

The Arts and Activism students were using dance to explore the relationship between social activism and artistic practice. Earlier in the semester, the students—in collaboration with a local organization—used visual art, film, and performance to create a two-night interactive installation that would show the importance of voting during the 2018 mid-term elections. Now, they would study a new chapter that would explore the theater practice known as “Theater of the Oppressed” as a vehicle for community organization, expression, and action.

“We talk about communication and how to communicate ideas using theater practice,” says Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, instructor for Arts and Activism and senior lecturer in the Program of Dance and Movement.

“I thought my students would gain a broader perspective on communication from this experience,” says Katrina Smith Korfmacher, director of the Community Engagement Core for the Environmental Health Sciences Center. In her Environmental Health and Justice class, students had been working over the semester with several local groups to collect and analyze data for projects such as the protection of the City of Rochester’s drinking water supply as well as the condition of the bike trails for the Genesee Riverway Trail.

Read More: Public health joins dance to put arts into action