A $7.5 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to the University of Michigan School of Public Health will advance research on the effects of environmental exposures at vulnerable stages in life, with a long-range goal to improve medical and public health interventions.
The grant continues the work of the Michigan Lifestage Environmental Exposures and Disease Center, one of 20 Environmental Health Sciences Core Centers supported by the NIEHS.
“This funding allows us to continue to support cutting edge research in environmental health sciences,” said center director Dr. Rita Loch-Caruso, UM professor of toxicology. “Our goal is to become the go-to center at UM and in our region for research on environmental health.”
The grant includes funds for research core services and facilities, pilot projects, community engagement, and career development and research engagement. Center core services provide support for assessing environmental contaminant exposures and utilizing computational tools and techniques to process large amounts of experimental data at once—in such areas of study as genomics and epigenomics. It also provides advice on experimental design and statistical analysis for studies of environmental impacts on health.
Center members are organized in research teams around themes of Genetic and Epigenetic Regulation, Endocrine and Metabolic Disruption, and Inflammation and Oxidative Stress.
An important aspect of the center’s mission involves interaction with affected communities and regulatory agencies through engagement opportunities.
“A center such as ours allows researchers to give attention to emerging local and regional environmental health crises as well as broader national and international health concerns,” Dr. Loch-Caruso said, adding that she hopes the new funding will encourage researchers to work on some of the nation’s most pressing environmental concerns.
During its first five years under the initial grant, the center supported researchers looking at how environmental contaminants impact conditions such as autism, lupus, obesity and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ongoing research focuses on heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury, and endocrine active compounds such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Other studies seek to understand the impact of air pollution on Detroit residents.