Superfund Research Program

April 2019

Superfund Research Program (SRP) grantees from all over the country gathered in Baltimore, Maryland, for the 2019 Society of Toxicology (SOT) Annual Meeting on March 10 – 14. Grantees and staff gave talks and presented posters highlighting SRP-funded research advances in toxicology.

More than 70 SRP project leaders and trainees from at least 15 SRP Centers presented oral and poster presentations. NIEHS SRP staff members Danielle Carlin, Ph.D., Michelle Heacock, Ph.D., Heather Henry, Ph.D., Brittany Trottier and interim SRP Director David Balshaw, Ph.D., were on hand to meet with grantees, view their posters, and discuss their innovative research. An SRP reception also gave trainees the opportunity to network.

Recognizing SRP Successes

Heather Henry with BU grantees

Henry, right, stops to take a photo with Boston SRP Center project leader Jennifer Schlezinger, Ph.D., left, and Boston SRP Center trainee and Wetterhahn Award winner Stephanie Kim, center.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

At SOT, several SRP-funded researchers were recognized with awards for exceptional publications, presentations, and submitted abstracts.

For example, Texas A&M SRP Center director Ivan Rusyn, Ph.D., was honored during the SOT awards ceremony as the senior author of the Toxicological Sciences Paper of the Year. The paper, funded in part by SRP, shows how using Collaborative Cross (CC), a large panel of genetically diverse strains of mice, is a valuable tool to evaluate variation between individuals in how chemicals are metabolized and to identify genes and pathways that may underpin population differences.

Among the many awards to SRP researchers from specialty sections, Michigan State University SRP Center trainee Lance Blevins, Ph.D., was awarded the Best Postdoctoral Presentation from the SOT Immunotoxicology Specialty Section. Blevin's research provides insight into mechanisms associated with activation of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) in human immune B cells, a biological pathway known to be disrupted by many environmental contaminants.

University of New Mexico SRP Center researcher Debra MacKenzie, Ph.D., was recognized as one of the top five abstracts in the SOT Mixtures Specialty Section for her research identifying correlations between metal exposure and changes to the immune system within the Navajo Birth Cohort Study. Texas A&M SRP Center trainee Zunwei Chen was also awarded one of the top five best abstracts in the SOT Mixtures Specialty Section for his work developing a multi-tissue human cell model to rapidly identify hazardous environmental chemicals and mixtures.

Presenting Innovative Findings

Society of Toxicology e-waste presenters

Presenters and participants in the e-waste session included, from left, Trottier; Paromita Chakraborty, Ph.D., of SRM University, Chennai, India; Bob Sonawane, Ph.D., Toxicology and Risk Assessment Consulting Services (TRACS) LLC; NIEHS Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D.; Bruce Fowler, Ph.D., TRACS LLC; and Heacock.
(Photo courtesy of Heather Henry)

University of Kentucky SRP Center postdoctoral fellow Michael Petriello, Ph.D., gave a platform presentation on the effect of lifestyle changes on the relationship between circulating levels of per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals and serum cholesterol as part of the session highlighting emerging scientists.

University of New Mexico SRP Center researcher Matt Campen chaired a symposium on cardiovascular toxicology and presented diverse approaches to investigate the impacts of toxicants on the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels and systemic inflammation.

Society of Toxicology PFAS session

In another session on per- and polyfluoroakyl substances (PFAS), University of Rhode Island (URI) SRP Center researcher Angela Slitt, Ph.D., third from left, presented her work to understand the influence of diet and PFAS exposure on liver outcomes. The session was chaired by National Toxicology Program toxicologist Sue Fenton, Ph.D. Participants in the session included, from left, URI SRP Center trainees Marissa Pfohl and Emily Marques; Slitt; Fenton; Bevin Blake, a graduate student with Fenton; and Heacock.
(Photo courtesy of Michelle Heacock)

In a session chaired by Heacock, presenters highlighted the public health and risk assessment challenges associated with electronic waste, or e-waste, an emerging area in the field of toxicology. As part of the session, Trottier presented the challenges of studying e-waste in different geographical areas and reducing exposure to the hazardous substances associated with recycling. "The increasing number of e-waste sites makes it challenging to protect humans and the environment," she said. The hazardous substances recyclers are exposed to cause health effects, such as damage to the central nervous system and kidneys, according to Trottier.

Carlin presented during the workshop session titled "Applying Systems Biology Approaches to Understand the Joint Action of Chemical and Nonchemical Stressors." She discussed using atherosclerosis as a model disease to determine the interaction of chemical and non-chemical stressors.

SRP staff were also available in the NIEHS Research Funding Insights Room, where current grantees and applicants could speak with program officers or scientific review officers about the grants process. For more information about NIEHS at SOT, see the Environmental Factor article.