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Dartmouth College

Superfund Research Program

Toxic Metals in the Northeast: From Biological to Environmental Implication

Center Director: Joshua W. Hamilton (Marine Biological Laboratory)
Grant Number: P42ES007373
Funding Period: 1995-2021

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Summary (1995-2000)

This program includes projects which are designed to assess the adverse effects of exposure to toxic heavy metals on human health from exposure to toxic metals. Biochemical, molecular biology, and epidemiological studies are being used to investigate the mechanisms of metal toxicity and the measurement of exposure to toxic metals. Hydrogeochemical and ecological approaches are being used to help in understanding the mechanisms of metal release and dispersion in the environment. The program consists of five projects (four biomedical and one nonbiomedical) and four cores (administration, molecular biology, trace metal analysis, and training).

One project is examining the possible induction of oxidative DNA damage by metals and the corresponding effect on gene expression. Another project is investigating the molecular basis for the preferential effects of carcinogenic heavy metals on expression of the model inducible genes with the aim of understanding whether these metals target specific genes to initiate carcinogenesis. In addition, this project will examine the interactions that occur following exposure to combinations of metals. In a similar project, the effect of metals on the synthesis and degradation of both heme and various hemoproteins in the P450 superfamily is being analyzed. In the epidemiology project, a case-control study is being used to investigate the potential risk of skin and bladder cancer associated with arsenic exposure through contaminated drinking water in New Hampshire.

The nonbiomedical research project focuses on the mechanisms of accumulation in the food web. An ecological approach is being undertaken to measure the variation in bioaccumulation and biomagnification of heavy metals in Northeastern lakes.

The program is supported by an administrative core, molecular biology and analytical cores, and a training core. The training core is designed to provide students with an in-depth, multidisciplinary examination of metal toxicology, and the impact and fate of metals in the environment. This core offers a special course in metal toxicology and an interdisciplinary seminar series.

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