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Toxic Chemicals May Weaken Infants' Response to TB Vaccine

Friday, December 18, 2015

Exposure to toxic chemicals while in the womb or in early life may weaken a baby's immune system response to the tuberculosis (TB) vaccine, researchers say.

The study focused on two common toxins: PCBs, an industrial chemical; and DDT, used in pesticides. These so-called "persistent" pollutants are not easily broken down and remain a health threat years after being banned.

PCBs were banned in the United States in 1979. DDT is banned in the United States, but is still used in some countries to control malaria-carrying mosquitoes, the study authors, from the University of Rochester in New York, said in a university news release.

"There are thousands of pollutants similar to PCBs and DDT with unknown health implications," study leader Dr. Todd Jusko, assistant professor in the departments of environmental medicine and public health services, said in the news release. "Our work provides a foundation for how these types of chemicals affect the developing immune system in infants around the world."

Read More: Toxic Chemicals May Weaken Infants' Response to TB Vaccine

Exposure to chemicals lowers babies' TB vaccine response

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Fetal exposure to two chemicals -- polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and DDE, a product of the breakdown of the insecticide DDT -- can dampen infants' immune response to the tuberculosis vaccine, according to a new study of mothers and children.

Both chemicals have been banned in many countries, including the United States, but are considered persistent pollutants, which pose health risks long after being introduced into the environment, can accumulate. The effects of such pollutants can pass between species through the food chain.

PCBs were used in manufacturing and consumer products in the United States until 1979, but most people have detectable PCB concentrations in their blood. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, though many countries still use it to control the spread of malaria by mosquitoes.

There are thousands of pollutants similar to PCBs and DDT with unknown health implications, said Dr. Todd Jusko, an assistant professor at the University of Rochester, in a press release.

Read More: Exposure to chemicals lowers babies' TB vaccine response

UR Scientist Wins Novo Nordisk Award to Develop Obesity Drug

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dr. Phipps in Laboratory

University of Rochester Medical Center researcher Richard P. Phipps, Ph.D., won a top scientific award from the pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk, to collaborate on a new obesity therapy based on his laboratory’s discoveries.

Phipps, the Wright Family Research Professor of Environmental Medicine, is the first UR faculty to receive the competitive Novo Nordisk Diabetes and Obesity Biologics Science Forum Award. The drug company is providing substantial financial support for the two-year project, which is designed to quickly move basic science in diabetes and obesity to an early stage of drug development known as proof-of-principle.

Phipps discovered a new function for a protein known as Thy1 (formally called CD90), linking it to fat cell accumulation.

Read More: UR Scientist Wins Novo Nordisk Award to Develop Obesity Drug

EHSC Welcomes Dr. Martha Susiarjo

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Susiarjo

The Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) would like to welcome Dr. Martha Susiarjo to URMC.

Dr. Martha Susiarjo applies her background in epigenetics to understanding whether epigenetic regulation of genes contributes to gene-environment interaction during early development.  She joins us as Assistant Professor from the University of Pennsylvania, where she recently completed her postdoc studying environmental estrogens and regulation of imprinted genes (genes contributed by only one parent). Dr. Susiarjo employs a mouse model to understand the mechanism(s) by which environmental exposures – obesogenic endocrine disrupting chemicals in particular – during in utero development can shape the future health outcomes of the offspring.  She hopes to identify mechanisms in order to better inform exposure prevention efforts.

Dr. Susiarjo looks forward to collaborating with center members to utilize her expertise in epigenetics, especially DNA methylation, in various models of environmental perturbations.  She also hopes collaborative efforts can elucidate how nutritional intervention may provide protective effects on environment-induced developmental outcomes.

Environmental Medicine News: EHSC Grant Renewal, New Appointment

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Great news from Environmental Medicine—its Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC) core grant was recently renewed for the 41st straight year. The department ushered in the $7.5 million, five-year, EHSC award from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (with a remarkable score of 12). She is also overseeing the setup of EHSC’s new epigenetics core facility. Funding for the Center began in 1975 and has been continuously supported by the NIH for costs related to infrastructure, career development, biostatistics, and to support collaborations across research departments at URMC.

Environmental Medicine also hired a new scientist with an interest in reproductive toxicity and epigenetics, a hot field concerned with investigating the environmental factors (such as the endocrine-disrupting chemical bisphenol A) that cause changes in gene expression across generations. Martha Susiarjo, Ph.D., completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and will join the UR as an assistant professor Sept. 1. She brings an NIH K99 award and expertise to the new epigenetics core facility.

The EHSC will celebrate 50 years of research with a two-day symposium Sept. 23-24, which will include a Science Café Series at the Pittsford Barnes & Noble, a poster session in Flaum Atrium, and a full slate of presentations at URMC from faculty and local civic leaders. Planning is under way; stay tuned for more details.

Lower Air Pollution, Higher Birth Weight

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A team of researchers led by Associate Professor, Dr. David Rich (Public Health Sciences & Environmental Medicine) studied birth weights before, during and after the Beijing Olympics, during which widespread pollution reduction efforts were instated. They found infants born shortly after the Olympics had significantly higher birth weights than infants born in other years. The researchers compiled information from 83,672 term births (37 to 42 weeks gestational age at birth) to mothers in four urban districts in Beijing. They compared birth weights for mothers whose eighth month of pregnancy occurred during the 2008 Olympics/Paralympics with those whose eighth month of pregnancy occurred at the same time of year in the years before (2007) and after (2009) the games when pollution levels were at their normally higher levels. They found that the babies born in 2008 were on average 23 grams larger than those in 2007 and 2009.

Read More: Lower Air Pollution, Higher Birth Weight

Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese -that favorite food of kids, packaged in the nostalgic blue box—will soon be free of yellow dye. Kraft announced Monday that it will remove artificial food coloring, notably Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 dyes, from its iconic product by January 2016. Instead, the pasta will maintain its bright yellow color by using natural ingredients: paprika, turmeric and annatto (the latter of which is derived from achiote tree seeds).

The company said it decided to pull the dyes in response to growing consumer pressure for more natural foods. But claims that the dyes may be linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children have also risen recently, as they did years ago, putting food dyes under sharp focus once again. On its Web site Kraft says synthetic colors are not harmful, and that their motivation to remove them is because consumers want more foods with no artificial colors.

Bernard Weiss, professor emeritus of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has researched this issue for decades, says he is frustrated that the FDA has not acted on the research showing the connection between artificial dyes and hyperactivity. All the evidence we have has showed that it has some capacity to harm, he says. In Europe that's enough to get it banned because a manufacturer has to show lack of toxic effects. In this country it's up to the government to find out whether or not there are harmful effects. Weiss supports banning artificial colors until companies have evidence that they cause no harm. Like most other scientists in this field, he thinks more research, particularly investigating dyes' effects on the developing brain, is imperative.

Read More: Does Artificial Food Coloring Contribute to ADHD in Children?

Celebrating 50 Years at URMC and Saying Goodbye: Victor Laties

Friday, April 10, 2015

Dr. Victor Laties, Professor Emeritus

Dr. Victor Laties, Professor Emeritus

In 1965, a young Victor Laties left Johns Hopkins for the University of Rochester and never looked back. In 2015, Vic celebrated his 50th year at the University of Rochester Medical Center-a feat not surpassed by many. Primarily in the department of Environmental Medicine, Vic has touched many lives over the years with his great work ethic, caring attitude, his love of toxicology, and his fantastic photos that have graced the Environmental Medicine, Environmental Health Sciences Center (EHSC), and Toxicology websites over the past 50 years.

The first director of the toxicology training grant, that is now in his 37th year, Vic has been integral to it's success and has created many memories and passed down a wealth of knowledge to hundreds of students. Beginning in the departments of Biophysics, Psychology, and Pharmacology Vic has also made many a friend and has been a valued colleague to his peers. Vic has remained on the editorial board for the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior since 1962 (and the webmaster for the JEAB/JABA site), and has served as editor for several other experimental therapeutics and pharmacological journals throughout the years.

Vic won the Distinguished Service to Behavior Analysis Award from the Society for the Advancement of Behavior Analysis (SABA) in 1995 and 2003-the only person to win this award twice. He was a major figure in the development of both behavioral pharmacology and behavioral toxicology. His work with the Society for the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (SEAB) journals has been essential to their development and their sustained excellence over the last forty years. To date he has published well over 100 journal articles, book chapters and various other publications.

Vic's love of toxicology and the department is surpassed only by his love for his wife and family as he officially retires today and moves to Maryland to be closer to them and enjoy the nice weather. The department and all of his colleagues wish to express their heartfelt gratitude for the many years of service and contributions that he has given. He is truly one of a kind and will be missed.

To read more about Vic's many accolades please see the Association for Behavior Analysis International article and view his CV.

Vic and the Environmental Medicine, Toxicology and EHSC Staff

Vic and the Environmental Medicine, Toxicology and EHSC Staff

Brittany Baisch, PhD ’13 Wins Nanotoxicology Specialty Section Best Publication 2015 Award

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Former Toxicology graduate student in Alison Elder's lab, Brittany Baisch (PhD ’13) won the Nanotoxicology Specialty Section Best Publication 2015 Award at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) annual meeting in San Diego, CA. last week. She won the award for the paper, Equivalent titanium dioxide nanoparticle deposition by intratracheal instillation and whole body inhalation: the effect of dose rate on acute respiratory tract inflammation. Brittany is currently working as a toxicologist at Kraft Foods.

Marissa Sobolewski Wins Butcher New Investigator Award and 2nd Place Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Award at SOT

Friday, April 3, 2015

Marissa Sobolewski

Postdoctoral Fellow in the Cory-Slechta lab, Marissa Sobolewski, PhD finished second in the Neurotoxicology SS Toshio Narashashi Postdoctoral Fellow Poster Award at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) annual meeting in San Diego, CA. last week.

Marissa also recently won the Richard Butcher New Investigator Award from the Neurobehavioral teratology society. Her research focus is Neurotoxicology, Etiology of neurobehavioral disease, Endocrine dysfunction, Synergistic Toxicity. Congrats!

UR Toxicology Graduate Students Make Strong Showing at 2015 SOT Meeting

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dr. Alison Elder and Elissa Wong

Dr. Alison Elder and Elissa Wong

UR Toxicology graduate students made a strong showing at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) annual meeting in San Diego, CA. last week. 3rd year graduate student, Elissa Wong (Majewska Lab) and 5th year graduate student, Sage Begolly (O'Banion/Olschowka Labs) both won travel awards to attend and present their posters.

Elissa Wong and Dr. Alison Elder also attended the event, hosting the UR recruitment table at the Society of Toxicology (SOT) Committee on Diversity Initiatives (CDI) session. Congrats to all!

View all of the photos from the SOT meeting.

E-Cigarette Vapors, Flavorings, Trigger Lung Cell Stress

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Do electronic cigarettes help people quit smoking? As the debate continues on that point, a new University of Rochester study suggests that e-cigarettes are likely a toxic replacement for tobacco products.

Emissions from e-cigarette aerosols and flavorings damage lung cells by creating harmful free radicals and inflammation in lung tissue, according to the UR study published in the journal PLOS ONE. Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry, led the research, which adds to a growing body of scientific data that points to dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

Please view the NBC news video about this article.

Read More: E-Cigarette Vapors, Flavorings, Trigger Lung Cell Stress

E-cigarette Vapors Can Damage Lung Cells

Monday, February 9, 2015

A new study by University of Rochester suggests that e-cigarettes are likely to be a toxic replacement for tobacco products.

Emissions from e-cigarette aerosols and flavourings damage lung cells by creating harmful free radicals and inflammation in lung tissue. Several leading medical groups, organizations and scientists are concerned about the lack of restrictions and regulations for e-cigarettes, said Irfan Rahman, lead author and professor of environmental medicine at University of Rochester Medical Center.

MSTP Announces 40th Anniversary Celebration!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Edward Rubin

Edward M. Eddy Rubin

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is excited to announce a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the MSTP NIH training grant on Friday, October 9, 2015.

The keynote speaker will be an MSTP alumni from the Class of 1980: Edward Rubin, MD, PhD, Director, DOE Joint Genome Institute.

Edward M. Eddy Rubin is an internationally-known geneticist and medical researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, where he became head of the Genomic Sciences Division in 1998. In 2002 he assumed the directorship of the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to lead the JGI's involvement in the Human Genome Project (HGP).

For more information and schedule of events for the day, please visit the MSTP 40th Anniversary page.