University of Kentucky
Superfund Research Program
Nutrition and Superfund Chemical Toxicity
Center Director: Bernhard Hennig
Grant Number: P42ES007380
Funding Period: 1997-2019
Due to their relative chemical stability and ubiquity in the environment, chlorinated organic contaminants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and trichloroethylene (TCE) pose significant health risks and enduring remediation challenges. For example, extensive PCB contamination at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant, the largest Superfund site in Kentucky, is of major concern for its health consequences. The University of Kentucky Superfund Research Center (UK-SRC) provides a focused transdisciplinary research, training, and translation environment to address human health challenges associated with such exposures. Preliminary findings suggest that nutrition-based concepts and exercise can markedly influence mechanisms of toxicity of chlorinated organics. Indeed, healthful nutrition/nutritional components may provide a platform to develop primary prevention strategies for diseases associated with environmental toxic insults, while also providing the basis for new risk assessment paradigms. Further, novel iron-based, nano-structured capture/sensing and remediation systems based on biomimetic binding domains and functionalized/responsive membrane platforms offer potential for sustainable advances in technical capability for site remediation.
The UK-SRC works to reduce risk by developing lifestyle-related modulators of environmental disease and elucidating relevant protective mechanisms, and developing technologically effective and economically efficient methods for capture/sensing and remediation of PCBs. Three biomedical and two environmental science projects, a Research Support Core, and Administrative, Research Translation, Community Engagement and Training Cores collectively advance understanding of toxicant-induced mechanisms of disease, introduce sustainable approaches for remediation and enhance stakeholder and community capacity to act. Biomedical projects focus on models of inflammation and associated changes in redox status and inflammatory cytokines in vascular (Superfund Chemicals, Nutrition, and Endothelial Cell Dysfunction), fetal (Postnatal Complications of Perinatal Polychlorinated Biphenyl Exposure) and adipose (Polychlorinated Biphenyls, Nutrition and Diabetes) tissues with relevance to atherosclerosis, insulin resistance/diabetes and obesity. Environmental science projects employ nanomaterials to create selective PCB-binding domains with high affinity and selectivity for PCBs (Biomimetic Magnetic Nanocomposites as a Platform Technology for the Capture and Sensing of PCBs) and a functionalized polymer immobilized membrane platform to support PCB dechlorination (Chloro-Organic Degradation by Polymer Membrane Immobilized Iron-Based Particle Systems).
All projects focus on common PCB toxicants. Biomedical scientists, with the Research Support Core, also evaluate byproducts of environmental science projects for unintended effects. Use of PCBs as a model contaminant will advance understanding of inflammatory diseases associated with exposure to persistent chlorinated organic pollutants. Research results are leading to evidence-based multidirectional information/education, technology transfer, training, policy, and translational activities via UK-SRC cores. Expected outcomes include positive lifestyle interventions across the lifespan for populations at risk and advanced technical capacity to reduce public health risks.