Skip to main content
Explore URMC



Night-shift workers are more vulnerable to permanent lung damage

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

A recent study by Dr. Irfan Rahman’s lab at the Department of Environmental Medicine, URMC, first authored by Qixin Wang, PhD published on March 2023 on or, entitled Circadian clock molecule Rev-erbα regulates lung fibrotic progression through collagen stabilization by Qixin Wang, Isaac Kirubakaran Sundar, Joseph H. Lucas, Jun-Gyu Park, Aitor Nogales, Luis Martinez-Sobrido, Irfan Rahman. This study highlighted that circadian exposures to virus and chemicals cause profound lung fibrosis.

Lung fibrosis/cancer is a devastating disease that affects millions of people worldwide, yet we still lack effective treatments. A new study by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center has identified a potential therapeutic target for lung fibrosis by looking at how your circadian rhythm affects the severity and progression of this deadly disease. The study, published recently in Nature Communications, shows that a circadian clock molecule called REV-ERBα regulates the progression of lung fibrosis by stabilizing collagen, a major component during tissue scarring. The authors also show that the abundance of REV-ERBα varies over the day and may indicate that people may be more susceptible to pulmonary fibrosis during the night time. The findings have potential implications for the development of treatments for lung fibrosis, a chronic and often fatal disease that affects millions of people worldwide. This may also have implications in lung fibrosis which occurs in lung cancer patients.

This study showed that REV-ERBα was decreased during fibrotic progression, and interacts with lysyl oxidase, an enzyme responsible for regulating collagen stabilization and degradation. Mice lacking REV-ERBα showed more vulnerability and more fibrogenesis tendency when infected with influenza A virus or bleomycin (a chemotherapeutic drug). More profoundly, the lung injury that occurred during the night presented with worse fibrosis. Activating REV-ERBα with pharmaceutical drugs (SR9009 and GSK4112) could effectively reduce the abundance of collagens and lysyl oxidases, as well as fibrogenesis and myofibroblast differentiation, critical cellular mechanisms involved in pulmonary fibrosis.

“These findings highlight the importance of understanding the complex interactions between circadian rhythms and fibrotic disease. We hope that this research will lead to new treatments that can improve the lives of those suffering from lung fibrosis." Lead author Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., noted the importance of understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying lung fibrosis and environmental hazards associated with fibrotic lung disease “ Night-shift workers on construction utilizing asbestos or other carcinogenesis materials should pay extra attention to protect themselves from inhaling hazardous materials, which could cause greater injury the lungs.” Lung cancer patients have fibrosis due to accumulation of collagen and/or chemotherapy and radiation. Treatment of these patients will also be beneficial given by this circadian clock molecule agonist.

Overall, this study highlights the potential for targeting circadian clock molecules like REV-ERBα to improve outcomes for patients with lung fibrosis. Further research is needed to determine the therapeutic potential of other REV-ERBα agonists and other circadian clock molecules in the treatment of this often fatal disease including lung cancer.

EHSC Pilot Funds Available

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) has funds to support meritorious Pilot Projects for research that seek to understand how environmental factors influence health and disease. Proposals that include basic science, translational, computational, and clinical research on the modulation of human health by environmental exposures or agents, including climate change, are welcome. Research projects using model organisms, human subjects approaches and data, exposure data or other types of data are welcome. We are especially interested in receiving proposals that investigate developmental origins of disease at any subsequent stage of the life cycle, genetic and environmental factors and/or their interactions that modulate susceptibilities, as well as interventions for mitigating the deleterious effects of environmental factors on human health. Utilization of the unique EHSC Facility Cores and/or interaction with our Community Engagement Core are encouraged. Applicants may request a maximum of $30,000 for the duration of one year and must hold a tenure-track faculty position. New investigators collaborating with existing EHSC members are encouraged to apply. Funds are restricted to research expenses and staff salaries. Salary of biostatisticians or research faculty will be considered with appropriate justification.

This is a two-stage process. Initial applications should include a one-page abstract describing the goals and objectives of the proposed project, the investigators involved, and the relevance of the proposal to the mission of the EHSC ( There is no form template for this one-page abstract. All abstracts will be reviewed by the EHSC Pilot Project Steering Committee. Applicants will be notified as promptly as possible if their abstract has been selected for a full submission.

The deadline for submitting initial applications is April 7, 2023

Interested applicants are encouraged to contact us for more information or relevance of their proposal. Contact Martha Susiarjo or Pat Noonan-Sullivan. Visit the EHSC website for full details.

Please submit your abstracts to Pat Noonan-Sullivan via email.

Dr. Irfan Rahman interview with Forbes Magazine

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Your Guide To CBD Vaping: Safety, Side Effects And More

Irfan RahmanWhile the prevalence of cigarette smoking declined significantly in the past two decades, vaping is on the rise. An estimated 5.66 million adults in the U.S. vape, according to a 2020 JAMA Network scientific paper. Perhaps most alarming, over 2.5 million high school and middle school students vape, reports the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The dangers of e-cigarettes are well documented, but the effects of vaping cannabidiol (CBD) aren’t common knowledge. CBD is often heralded in the wellness space as a natural way to help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, relieve pain and improve sleep. However, these potential benefits can lead to confusion surrounding the health and safety of vaping the cannabinoid. Below, experts explain the science behind how vaping CBD affects the body and whether it’s a habit to engage in or avoid.

Read More: Dr. Irfan Rahman interview with Forbes Magazine

The 2023 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award Recognizes Irfan Rahman for His Contributions to Pulmonary Toxicology and Specifically How E-Cig and Cigarette Smoke Causes Lung Injury and Disease

Thursday, February 16, 2023

SOT bannerThis award recognizes a scientist who, based on research, has made a recent (within the last five years), seminal scientific contribution/advance to understanding fundamental mechanisms of toxicity. The recipient should be a respected basic scientist whose research findings are likely to have a pervasive impact on the field of toxicology.

Irfan RahmanIrfan Rahman, PhD, has received the 2023 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Leading Edge in Basic Science Award for his contributions and advances in pulmonary toxicological sciences, specifically for his unwavering commitment to investigating how electronic cigarettes and cigarette smoke cause lung injuries and disease in humans, focusing on the fundamental alterations of DNA damage and cellular senescence. As part of this award, Dr. Rahman will deliver the Leading Edge in Basic Science Award Lecture on Tuesday, March 21, 12:30 pm–1:30 pm during the 2023 SOT Annual Meeting and Tox Expo.

Dr. Rahman holds a PhD in biochemistry on neutrophil functions in hypertension. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship on lung toxicology at the University of Miami and Georgetown University before relocating to the University of Edinburgh, where he focused on environmental agents and lung inflammation and received an appointment as a Senior Research Scientist/Lecturer. In 2003, Dr. Rahman joined the faculty of the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Environmental Medicine where he has risen through the faculty ranks with appointments with the Department of Public Health Sciences, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Eastman Institute for Oral Health. Since 2018, he has been the Director of the Center for Inhalation and Flavoring Toxicological Research.

The research program that Dr. Rahman has developed unites the fields of circadian biology, chromatin remodeling, inflammation, sirtuin1 deacetylase (SIRT1) dynamics, and oxidants related to the impact of tobacco products on lung toxicology. He has been a longstanding pioneer with seminal contributions and cutting-edge research on mitophagy, steroid resistance, and lung cellular senescence and is a leader in the role of oxidative stress and redox signaling in gene transcription in tobacco-related pulmonary diseases. In addition, he also has been a leader in the molecular biology of chromatin remodeling and cellular senescence in the lung in response to oxidative stress and cigarette smoke and was the first to show chromatin remodeling and cellular senescence in the lung in response to cigarette smoke. He has identified several exciting potential therapies that could prevent tobacco-related lung complications from progressing.

Dr. Rahman’s mechanistic discoveries and experience translated rapidly to address major issues for human health in the past five years, namely COVID-19 and e-cigarette toxicity. Of critical importance, he is constantly evolving his research to meet the challenging landscape of tobacco/e-cigarette products for lung health. For example, with regard to the rapid emergence of e-cigarettes in the high school population and the hookah waterpipe tobacco bars in college communities, Dr. Rahman already has published several papers on these products. During the pandemic, Dr. Rahman worked on COVID-19 biospecimens and showed that smokers/vapers are more susceptible to infection and are more likely to develop strong lung inflammatory response via upregulation of ACE2 via nicotine receptor alpha 7, particularly in older individuals.

Dr. Rahman’s publications list consists of 225 original papers, 90 reviews, and 25 book chapters with an h-index of 110 with more than 50,000 citations; he also was selected for a list of Highly Cited Researchers by Thomson Reuters in 2014, 2015, and 2016. He has been recognized internationally and is ranked 16 of 52,718 active respiratory and allergy researchers by Ioannidis et al. (2020) He is the editor and author of Inflammation, Aging, Diet, and Nutrition, a book published by Elsevier in 2013. During his career, he has held 21 Associate Editor and Editorial Board memberships and has reviewed articles for more than 50 journals. In addition, he is the Principal Investigator on four National Institutes of Health grants.

Dr. Rahman has devoted his career to teaching, understanding, and the prevention/treatment of smoking-related lung diseases. Over the years Dr. Rahman has mentored eight full-time graduate students, 30 postdoctoral scholars, and four undergraduate students, several of whom are now prominent faculty members at various institutions.

Dr. Rahman has attended the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo regularly since 2003 and has been an SOT member since 2005. He has continuously provided leadership in SOT, serving as a Councilor and President of the SOT Inhalation and Respiratory Specialty Section. He also has been involved in the American Thoracic Society as a Program Committee member for the Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (RCMB) Assembly and created the Lung Aging Research Interest Group in the RCMB Assembly. In 2022, he received an American Thoracic Society Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishments.

Read More: The 2023 SOT Leading Edge in Basic Science Award Recognizes Irfan Rahman for His Contributions to Pulmonary Toxicology and Specifically How E-Cig and Cigarette Smoke Causes Lung Injury and Disease

Center Director Paige Lawrence weighs in on heavy metals in dark chocolate

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Dr. B. Paige Lawrence was featured in a WXXI story addressing recent concerns about cadmium and lead in dark chocolate.

Researchers look for link between air pollution and brain disease

Tuesday, January 17, 2023



Deborah Cory-Slechta, a professor of environmental medicine, of public health sciences, and of neuroscience, discusses findings from researchers trying to figure out how much, and to what extent, airborne contaminants are linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

University Launches Institute for Human Health and the Environment to Find Solutions to the 21st Century’s Most Pressing Health Issues

Friday, January 13, 2023

The foods we consume. The air we breathe. The stress we experience. The chemicals we are exposed to (willingly and unwillingly). The changing climate. Everything in and around us influences our health. Amazingly, quality of life and longevity are more closely tied to where someone lives than their genetic code.  

The University of Rochester believes that finding solutions to the 21st Century’s most pressing health issues – including cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and our ability to fight infection – requires a collaborative commitment to research, education, and community engagement related to how the environment influences health across the lifespan. The new UR Institute for Human Health and the Environment (IHHE) will bring this vision to life.

Led by B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., the Institute will serve as a local and national hub to catalyze new scientific discoveries related to environmental impacts on health and transform this information into actions that will promote healthier lives for all. 

“The University has been a leader in research and education in environmental health and toxicology since the 1940s, so we’re building off an extremely strong foundation,” said Lawrence, the Wright Family Research Professor and chair of the department of Environmental Medicine. “Many teams are already conducting research, teaching, and working with community members on issues related to the environment and health, but we know we can do more. It is exciting to launch this new institute, and I encourage folks to get involved. We want to hear what people across the University are passionate about and help to make their work more impactful. I encourage anyone who is interested to check out our web site and reach out to us – we want to hear from you!”   

“Environmental factors such as geographic location and exposure to toxins have a profound impact on susceptibility to disease,” said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., URMC CEO and dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Some populations are disproportionately affected by these environmental risks, particularly communities of color. Collectively, we have the experience needed to partner with these communities and to use our knowledge to modify or prevent risk factors and make a difference in their lives.”

The IHHE will integrate programs and expertise from across all UR schools and will be anchored by three interactive pillars: Research; Career Development and Education; and Engagement. Initially, the Institute’s key areas of focus will include climate change and health; environmental justice; how water and air pollution impact health; and how environmental factors shape health across our whole lifetime.


The IHHE will serve as a major hub for innovative and inclusive research that melds academic and scholarly disciplines. By creating new opportunities to gather knowledge and bring together different points of view, and through the sharing of expertise, the IHHE will propel research on many facets of environmental health. Gaining a better understanding of the intrinsic molecular, cellular, and socioeconomic mechanisms that underpin associations between health and the environment will transform care and lead to new ways to improve public health.

Career Development and Education

The Institute will support education and career development across all career stages. It will enhance existing programs, including an undergraduate major in Environmental Health, and multiple graduate programs, including Toxicology, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics & Computational Biology. Understanding how environmental factors influence health is already part of several other programs anchored in Public Health Sciences, Neuroscience, Engineering, and Data Science. The Institute will strengthen and extend connections between these programs and support a more diverse and inclusive environment to recruit and retain highly talented individuals. The Institute will also support programs for K-12 students in the Rochester area.


The IHHE builds on a long history of environmental justice and community engagement related to how the lived environment influences the health of individuals and communities. This includes working with local community members to develop, evaluate, and disseminate community-based approaches to solve problems. For example, teams at UR contributed to Rochester’s local lead poisoning prevention system, which has resulted in lead poisoning rates declining 2.4 times faster than elsewhere in NY State, and has served as a national model for community-based action. Activities will be anchored in multidirectional engagement between the University and local and global partners to shape research and to evaluate and inform changes in policies, systems, and communities.

Anyone who is interested in learning more about the Institute and how they can get involved can visit the IHHE web site or reach out to the leadership team: