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Your Environment. Your Health.

Harvard School of Public Health

Superfund Research Program

Metals and Metal Mixtures: Cognitive Aging, Remediation, and Exposure Sources (MEMCARE)

Center Director: Quan Lu
Grant Number: P42ES030990
Funding Period: 2020-2025

Summary (2020-2025)

Health concerns of aging — especially cognitive decline and memory loss in older age — have huge public health implications as the U.S. and world populations are shifting in distribution toward older ages. While a variety of toxicants contribute to cognitive aging, this Superfund Research Center (SRC) is focused on heavy metals (Pb, As, Mn, Cd, Cr, and Se) and metal mixtures because, despite years of regulation, clean-up, and remediation efforts, metal contamination in many Superfund sites persists and continues to threaten public health. There is no current SRC that specifically addresses the health effects, risk, and remediation of metal contaminants in relation to their effects on cognitive health in older age. To fill this critical gap and to address the pressing public health problems posed by environmental metal contaminants on cognitive aging, the researchers have established a "Metals and Metal Mixtures: Cognitive Aging, Remediation, and Exposure Sources (MEMCARE)" SRC. The overall goal of the MEMCARE SRC is to understand and mitigate effects of exposure to metals and metal mixtures on late-life cognitive health. To achieve this goal, the researchers have designed a highly integrated, solution-based program of four research projects and four cores. The Metals, Critical Windows of Exposures, Epigenetics, and Late-Life Cognitive Function project uses an innovative approach to assess early-life exposures and late-life cognitive function in a unique population of adults now in their 60s and 70s who donated baby teeth as children. The EV miRs in Cognitive Function Decline Associated with Early-Life Metal Exposure project investigates basic biological mechanisms underlying effects of early-life exposures using both in vitro and in vivo approaches. The Spatial Patterns of Metals and Metal Mixtures in Drinking Water project examines the role of surface and groundwater treatment systems in spatial and temporal patterns of metals in water across the U.S., including Superfund sites. The Designing the Next Generation of Highly Selective Sorbent Materials for Remediation of Target Inorganic Contaminants in Aqueous Systems project is developing novel nanostructured adsorbents to remove metals from water, potentially providing improved remedies for our populations in the Metals, Critical Windows of Exposures, Epigenetics, and Late-Life Cognitive Function project and the Community Engagement Core (CEC). The CEC partners with an urban, industrially contaminated community in Boston, Massachusetts, and a rural community directly affected by two Superfund sites in Colorado. The Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC) provides data management, biostatistical, and bioinformatics support and ensures resource sharing and reproducible science for all projects and cores. The Administrative Core provides oversight and communicates the Center's science to stakeholders. The Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) is embedded within all aspects of the Center to provide doctoral and postdoctoral trainees with relevant experiences in all aspects of work in the SRC.

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