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Faculty & Staff Honors

UNC: Researchers Awarded NIEHS Grant to Study Genetics of Diabetes Associated with Arsenic Exposure

Two University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health scientists and the chair of the UNC genetics department will lead a new study of the genetic underpinning of diabetes associated with arsenic exposure, thanks to more than $3.3 million in funding by the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Principal investigators for the project are Dr. Fernando Pardo-Manuel de Villena, professor and chair of the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Genetics, and Dr. Mirek Styblo, professor of nutrition, and Dr. Rebecca Fry, Carol Remmer Angle Distinguished Professor and associate chair of environmental sciences and engineering, both at the Gillings School.

Using genetically diverse mouse models and DNA collected in human cohorts, the team will characterize disease phenotypes associated with chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic and identify genes that convey susceptibility to diabetes.

“To the best of my knowledge,” Dr. Styblo said, “this is the first study to use genetically diverse mice and translational design to identify genetic polymorphisms that increase the risk of developing diabetes in people exposed to arsenic from the environment.”

Dr. Fry, who also is director of UNC’s Institute for Environmental Health Solutions, noted that the work was an exciting interdisciplinary research opportunity to identify those most vulnerable to arsenic-induced disease and provide solutions to protect them from harm.

This is the first National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded collaborative grant for these three investigators, after completion of a pilot project last year. Drs. Styblo and Fry have collaborated on several studies focused on adverse health effects related to environmental metals, including arsenic.

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