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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Michigan Receives $9.5 Million to Study Impact of Environment on Children’s Health

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded $9.5M to the University of Michigan School of Public Health to study the impact of the environment on children’s health.

Michigan will serve as one of six national research hubs over the next four years as part of the new NIEHS Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) Program.

Through the Michigan hub of the CHEAR Laboratory Network (M-CHEAR), announced by NIH today, Michigan will support scientists across the country whose research focuses on the causes of adverse child health such as preterm birth, reproductive tract anomalies, obesity, asthma/allergies, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism and early onset of puberty.

“Our own research and that of colleagues around the world have produced mounting evidence and concern that the environment may profoundly impact child health and development,” said Dr. John Meeker, M-CHEAR director and professor of environmental health sciences at Michigan.  Dr. Meeker is also associate dean for research at Michigan.

“The primary objective of M-CHEAR is to contribute large-scale national efforts to advance knowledge of the impact of the environment on child health by offering high-quality, state-of-the-art laboratory support for researchers conducting epidemiology and clinical studies of child health.”

Environmental factors like poverty, malnutrition, maternal smoking and drinking, and lead exposure long have been known to adversely affect children’s health, Meeker and colleagues wrote in their proposal. But research is still in its infancy on other commonly encountered chemicals, such as endocrine disrupting compounds (like BPA and phthalates) and other chemical or nonchemical exposures, and how they may interact to adversely impact child health.

“Technology advances have become a powerful driver in studying and understanding the start and spread of disease,” said NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins. “These projects will expand the toolbox available to researchers to improve our ability to characterize environmental exposures, understand how environmental exposures affect in utero development and function, and bolster the infrastructure for exposure research.”

M-CHEAR builds on work in these areas by researchers at Michigan and the Medical School who have established world-class labs focused on exposure science, environmental epidemiology, molecular biology, child growth and development, human nutrition, metabolomics (the study of cell chemical byproducts), epigenomics (modifications of the genetic material in cells), analytical chemistry, biostatistics/bioinformatics, and the study of biomarker development, validation and utility.

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