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Final Progress Reports: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: Elucidating Mechanisms of Heavy Metal-Induced Toxicity and Disease

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Superfund Research Program

Elucidating Mechanisms of Heavy Metal-Induced Toxicity and Disease

Project Leader: Rebecca C. Fry
Grant Number: P42ES005948
Funding Period: 2011-2018
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Final Progress Reports

Year:   2017 

The Elucidating Mechanisms of Cadmium-Induced Toxicity and Disease project is led by UNC Superfund Program Center Director Rebecca Fry, Ph.D., and focuses on the critical issues of pregnancy and neonatal complications associated with exposure to toxic metals. In ground-breaking research, this project has uncovered novel biological pathways perturbed by environmental metals that are critical for arsenic and cadmium-induced disease. Specifically, in relation to cadmium exposure during pregnancy, Fry and her research team have identified that microRNAs are critical regulators of genes involved in the TGF-beta pathway. Underlying the biological basis for disease, this pathway is essential to placental cell migration. To advance biomedical research, the researchers' laboratory uses a transdisciplinary approach that includes both cell culture and clinical samples from subjects with or without disease. With strong mechanistic basis, the findings from the laboratory highlight that the TGF-beta pathway is tied to preeclampsia risk during pregnancy. These results are significant as they are the first step in working towards a potential cure for this deadly disease. Fry's laboratory has also made significant strides in improving/modifying the risk analysis process. This includes a pioneering paper on the utilization of Bayesian Belief Networks as a tool for risk analysis of the health effects of prenatal arsenic exposure. In addition, Fry published the application of benchmark dose modeling of epigenetic data.

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