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Cassandra Houser Receives AAI Young Investigator Award at the 22nd Annual Upstate New York Immunology Conference

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Cassandra Award

IMV Ph.D. Graduate Student, Cassandra Houser (Paige Lawrence's Lab) received one of ten AAI Young Investigator Awards at the 22nd Annual Upstate New York Immunology Conference. The conference this year took place October 28th at Albany Medical Center.  The award is based on the top poster abstracts submitted based on scientific rigor and significance to the field of immunology.

Congrats Cassandra!

How environmental toxins impair immune system over multiple generations

Thursday, October 17, 2019

New research shows that maternal exposure to a common and ubiquitous form of industrial pollution can harm the immune system of offspring and that this injury is passed along to subsequent generations, weakening the body’s defenses against infections such as the influenza virus.

The study was led by Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Department of Environmental Medicine and appears in the Cell Press journal iScience. The research was conducted in mice, whose immune system function is similar to humans.

“The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is a touchstone for many aspects of human health,” said Lawrence. “But in terms of the body’s ability to fights off infections, this study suggests that, to a certain extent, you may also be what your great-grandmother ate.”

While other studies have shown that environmental exposure to pollutants can have effects on the reproductive, respiratory, and nervous system function across multiple generations, the new research shows for the first time that the immune system is impacted as well.

This multigenerational weakening of the immune system could help explain variations that are observed during seasonal and pandemic flu episodes. Annual flu vaccines provide some people more protection than others, and during pandemic flu outbreaks some people get severely ill, while others are able to fight off the infection. While age, virus mutations, and other factors can explain some of this variation, they do not fully account for the diversity of responses to flu infection found in the general population.

“When you are infected or receive a flu vaccine, the immune system ramps up the production of specific kinds of white blood cells in response,” said Lawrence. “The larger the response, the larger the army of white blood cells, enhancing the ability of the body to successfully fight off an infection. Having a smaller size army — which we see across multiple generations of mice in this study — means that you’re at risk for not fighting the infection as effectively.”

In the study, researchers exposed pregnant mice to environmentally relevant levels of a chemical called dioxin, which, like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), is a common by-product of industrial production and waste incineration, and is also found in some consumer products. These chemicals find their way into the food system where they are eventually consumed by humans. Dioxins and PCBs bio-accumulate as they move up the food chain and are found in greater concentrations in animal-based food products. The scientists observed the production and function of cytotoxic T cells — white blood cells that defend the body against foreign pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria, and seek out and destroy cells with mutations that could lead to cancer — was impaired when the mice were infected with influenza A virus.

Recent paper by Christina Post, Lawrence Lab Featured on Futurity

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Did you know that your great-grandmother’s exposure to industrial pollution may affect how you respond to respiratory viral infections? A recent paper published in iScience, by Christina Post, a graduate student in Toxicology and Dr. Paige Lawrence, the Chair of Environmental Medicine shows how a common industrial pollutant called dioxin weakens how immune cells respond to influenza A virus infections when given to pregnant mice. Surprisingly, the changes in how the offspring respond to infection were passed on for two more generations!   The findings are important because they suggest ancestral environmental exposures may contribute to the efficacy of annual flu vaccinations (maybe place the Futurity link here or not use it at all?).

Read More: Recent paper by Christina Post, Lawrence Lab Featured on Futurity

Environmental Toxins Impair Immune System over Multiple Generations

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

New research shows that maternal exposure to a common and ubiquitous form of industrial pollution can harm the immune system of offspring and that this injury is passed along to subsequent generations, weakening the body’s defenses against infections such as the influenza virus. 

The study was led by Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., with the University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) Department of Environmental Medicine and appears in the Cell Press journal iScience. The research was conducted in mice, whose immune system function is similar to humans.

“The old adage ‘you are what you eat’ is a touchstone for many aspects of human health,” said Lawrence. “But in terms of the body’s ability to fights off infections, this study suggests that, to a certain extent, you may also be what your great-grandmother ate.”

While other studies have shown that environmental exposure to pollutants can have effects on the reproductive, respiratory, and nervous system function across multiple generations, the new research shows for the first time that the immune system is impacted as well. 

This multigenerational weakening of the immune system could help explain variations that are observed during seasonal and pandemic flu episodes. Annual flu vaccines provide some people more protection than others, and during pandemic flu outbreaks some people get severely ill, while others are able to fight off the infection.  While age, virus mutations, and other factors can explain some of this variation, they do not fully account for the diversity of responses to flu infection found in the general population.

“When you are infected or receive a flu vaccine, the immune system ramps up production of specific kinds of white blood cells in response,” said Lawrence. “The larger the response, the larger the army of white blood cells, enhancing the ability of the body to successfully fight off an infection. Having a smaller size army – which we see across multiple generations of mice in this study – means that you're at risk for not fighting the infection as effectively.”

In the study, researchers exposed pregnant mice to environmentally relevant levels of a chemical called dioxin, which, like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), is a common by-product of industrial production and waste incineration, and is also found in some consumer products. These chemicals find their way into the food system where they are eventually consumed by humans. Dioxins and PCBs bio-accumulate as they move up the food chain and are found in greater concentrations in animal-based food products. 

Read More: Environmental Toxins Impair Immune System over Multiple Generations

EHSC Faculty Attend 2019 Center Directors Meeting in Iowa City

Friday, June 21, 2019

EHSC photo

The 2019 EHSC Center Directors Meeting was hosted by the University of Iowa in Iowa City on June 20, 21, 2019. University of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center faculty, Irfan Rahman, PhD,  CEC Director Katrina Korfmacher, PhD,  IHSFC Co-Director Steve Georas, MD,  Center Director Paige Lawrence, PhD, and new Center member Daniel Croft, MD, MPH, as well as Center Administrator Pat Noonan Sullivan attended the meeting.

Each faculty member played a role in the meeting, contributing expertise of their work. Rahman spoke on Human health studies of E-cigarette use at the meeting.  Discussants included Dana Haine, MS from UNC and Judith Zelikoff, PhD, from NYU, moderated by Alejandro Comellas, MD. Katrina Korfmacher facilitated sessions on policy engagement by CECs and report back of research results to participants and communities. At a break out session on translational research in environmental health sciences, Georas shared the centers experience with the highly successful IHSFC Translational Mini-Pilot Program. Croft presented a poster on his research showing an association between air pollution exposure and hospital admissions for respiratory viral infections.

The 2020 EHSC Center Directors Meeting will be hosted by Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan July 22nd- 24th, 2020.

Rahman

posters