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University of California-San Diego

Superfund Research Program

Molecular Mechanisms and Models for Exposure

Center Director: Robert H. Tukey
Grant Number: P42ES010337
Funding Period: 2000-2023

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Summary (2005-2010)

Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of hazardous chemicals in the environment is a critical national objective. CERCLA was established to gain knowledge on the public health risks associated with exposure to Superfund site hazardous waste. Thus, a greater understanding of the exposure pathway and the health consequences resulting from human exposure to uncontrolled hazardous waste from Superfund sites are high priorities. The goals of the UC San Diego Superfund Basic Research Program are to implement modern scientific approaches to identify and characterize mechanisms responsible for genomic stress elicited by water born pollutants found at Superfund sites. Their findings have shown that chemical exposure leads to alterations in patterns of gene expression, which are controlled and regulated by underlying signal transduction pathways. The UC San Diego Superfund Basic Research Program will test the hypothesis that "Alterations in cellular signaling and gene expression by Superfund site chemicals can be exploited to develop biological models for the detection and bioremediation of chemical toxicants". Their experimental strategies will rely heavily upon recombinant DNA and the development of new technologies to yield new perspectives on monitoring, remediation and mechanisms of toxicity mediated through altered gene expression and aberrant cellular signaling. To meet these goals, the UC San Diego Superfund Basic Research Program will develop a multidisciplinary effort consisting of 6 biomedical research projects, 2 non-biomedical research projects and 3 research support cores. The research will be supported in part by a Ph.D. training program. The environmental problems resulting from the University’s location in a coastal environment and their proximity to a populated border creates unique environmental US/Mexico border issues that are of special relevance to water born pollutants. Through the program’s Research Translation and Outreach Core, partnerships have been formed with local industry and community groups to utilize core’s developing technologies as applied biological tools for assessment of exposure levels and to predict health risk. Investigators with complimentary expertise from 10 UCSD Departments, Organized Research Units and Centers are participating in this project. The program’s combined efforts are anticipated to provide new insights into the molecular mechanisms that lead to environmental illness and to improve understanding of the consequences of exposure to Superfund site contaminants.

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