Superfund Research Program
Research Translation: Extending the Reach of Exposure Science and Technology That Improves the Detection and Remediation of Hazardous Substances
Project Summary (2017-2022)
The UCSD Superfund Research Program (SRP) Center will investigate relationships linking obesity, nutrition, genetics, epigenetics and environmental toxicant exposure in the etiology and progression of liver disease, especially a non-alcoholic toxicant induced form of fatty liver disease called Toxicant-Associated Steatohepatitis (TASH). This focus is especially significant now given how cases of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and hepatocellular carcinoma are dramatically increasing around the world, including in California and Mexico.
Hispanic and Native Americans are especially vulnerable to this disease given their genetic susceptibility compounded by the harsh reality that many Hispanic and Native Americans live in stressed places with high rates of obesity, poverty, poor nutrition, health disparities and exposure to toxicants, all of which constitute cumulative impacts that increase the risk of getting cancer, including TASH. UCSD’s Center is pursuing an innovative approach to understanding fatty liver disease and cancer.
The Research Translation Core (RTC) will collaborate with all of the SRP Center project/core leaders to translate their scientific knowledge, data, models and technological innovations into forms useful for target audiences—including the EPA, ATSDR, CDC, Nonprofits, Biotech, County health providers, city planning organizations, Tribal Environmental Agencies, the NIEHS and other SRCs. The RTC has access to urban and rural sites in California (San Diego and Imperial Valley), including the Halaco Superfund site, and Mexico (Tijuana) where place-based interventions are underway to reduce cumulative risks and health disparities impacting Hispanic and Native American communities.
The core’s communication strategies, partnerships with government agencies, technology transfer and information dissemination to appropriate audiences will concentrate on toxicant induced liver disease from a perspective of prevention and intervention. The core researchers will identify and share new models of exposure (e.g., 3D printed liver tissue), methods of detection and diagnosis (e.g., Synthetically Evolved Receptors and Synthetically Evolved Biosensors), novel plant technologies (enhanced phytostabilization and bioremediation potential of plants and edible food safety) and new online cyberinfrastructure for data integration, visualization and mapping.
The RTC will facilitate joint publications among project/core leaders and extend the reach of their science communication through social media, webinars, press releases, symposia, science cafes, geographic information systems and bioinformatics. This multidisciplinary team research will promote knowledge and understanding of how cumulative risks (e.g., obesity, poor nutrition, and exposure to toxicants) impact human health; thereby helping pave the way for better detection and diagnosis, prevention and interventions that can slow the rate of increase in toxicant induced liver disease.