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Deborah Cory-Slechta Receives the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD, has been awarded the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award in honor of her scientific achievements and contributions to public health in the fields of environmental health sciences and toxicology.

Dr. Cory-Slechta is currently a Professor of environmental medicine, pediatrics, and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where she trains and mentors a number of scholastically recognized students via hands-on, project-oriented teaching, as well as offering support and mentorship to junior faculty members. She also is the Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Dr. Cory-Slechta is a world-renowned behavioral psychologist and neurotoxicologist, and her work has provided mechanistic support for understanding the consequences of lead exposure in developing animals and humans. Her studies combine powerful hypothesis-generating screening tools with rigorous hypothesis-driven research questions to systematically test xenobiotic-induced neurotoxicity. Dr. Cory-Slechta has championed behavioral batteries for the assessment of neurotoxicity, developing new methodologies and asserting the importance of early changes in behavior as markers of aberrant neurodevelopment and neurotoxicity. She developed sensitive behavioral tasks to enable translation and validation of her animal work to human populations, which has significantly contributed to the recognition that levels of lead exposure previously thought of as safe are likely causing damage to children, particularly those that have additional risk factors. Dr. Cory-Slechta’s studies have led to a paradigm shift and recognition by federal agencies of the necessity to include developmental neurotoxicity studies in the assessment of ill effects of xenobiotics, particularly as they pertain to the nervous system.

Dr. Cory-Slechta’s scientific influence is demonstrated by an enormous number of invited research presentations worldwide as well as her sustained publication repertoire, which includes over 190 published manuscripts in high-impact journals. In addition, her laboratory since its establishment has received continual funding by the National Institutes of Health, a testament to her outstanding leadership and research.

Since joining SOT in 1983, Dr. Cory-Slechta has served as Chair of the SOT Awards Committee; as a member of the Education and Nominating Committees; as Councilor of the Metals Specialty Section; and as Councilor and President of the Neurotoxicology Specialty Section. Her efforts were recognized through her receipt of the 2017 Neurotoxicology Specialty Section Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award. In addition to service to SOT, Dr. Cory-Slechta is on the Editorial Boards of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Toxicology, and NeuroToxicology and is a reviewer for a multitude of study sections for the National Institutes of Health, US Environmental Protection Agency, and other granting bodies, among numerous other institutional commitments.

Congratulations, Debbie!

Read More: Deborah Cory-Slechta Receives the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award

Inhaled paraquat enters brain, impairs sense of smell in male mice

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Researchers funded by NIEHS reported that inhalation of the widely used pesticide paraquat reduced the sense of smell in male mice for several months after exposure. Moreover, the chemical entered the brain and other tissues. These results underscore the importance of studying the effects of inhalation of neurotoxicants, to protect public health.

Loss of sense of smell, or olfactory impairment, is an early sign of Parkinson's disease. The findings, published Dec. 29, 2020, in the journal Toxicological Sciences, suggest paraquat may contribute to such neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers at the University of Rochester modeled an inhalation of low concentrations of paraquat. Using the university's Inhalation Core facility, they exposed mice to aerosolized paraquat. The team then measured levels of the pesticide in lung, kidney, and four regions of the brain — olfactory bulb, striatum, midbrain, and cerebellum.

"Inhalation can provide a direct route of entry to the brain," explained first author Timothy Anderson. "If you inhale something and it goes into your nose, it can actually enter the neurons responsible for sense of smell, and travel into the brain." Anderson is a graduate student at the University of Rochester lab of Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D.,where the study was conducted. Cory-Slechta is deputy director of the university's NIEHS-funded Environmental Health Sciences Center.

Co-author Kevin Welle measured the highest brain levels in the olfactory bulb, suggesting paraquat entered the brain through nasal-olfactory neurons.

"The sex-dependent olfactory impairment observed after paraquat [PQ] inhalation exposure is intriguing and parallels important features of Parkinson's disease [PD], including early loss of sense of smell and greater prevalence in males," said Jonathan Hollander, Ph.D.,health scientist administrator in the NIEHS Genes, Environment, and Health Branch. Hollander oversees research grants for neurodegenerative diseases and other areas.

"Given that paraquat is a known risk factor for PD, and inhalation is a prevalent source of exposure, this study may lead to a more useful animal model of PQ-induced neurodegeneration," he added.

Read More: Inhaled paraquat enters brain, impairs sense of smell in male mice