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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

University at Buffalo: Epidemiology Grad Student Receives American Heart Association Fellowship

The American Heart Association (AHA) has awarded a one-year, pre-doctoral fellowship to Mr. Zhongzheng (Jason) Niu, a third-year PhD student in epidemiology in the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. The $31,016 award will funds his research on the relationship between early-life secondhand smoke exposure and later cardiovascular disease.

In Mr. Niu’s thesis, “Air pollution, telomere length, and cardiovascular disease: a life course study,” he is studying the role air quality plays in the development of health problems in the heart and blood vessels. Mr. Niu also examines telomeres, compound structures found at the ends of chromosomes. Previous research has found that telomeres are shorter in people who have died prematurely or suffer from aging-related diseases.

Dr. Niu will analyze data from three cohort studies that cover the entire life span.

The first part covers conception through birth. Dr. Niu expects to understand whether infants will be born with shorter telomeres if they are exposed to air particulates less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter while still in the womb. This phase of the project is based on research conducted by Dr. Lina Mu, UB associate professor of epidemiology and environmental health, and Mr. Niu’s primary advisor.

The second phase of Mr. Niu’s research, funded by AHA, will explore whether exposure to secondhand smoke in utero and in early life predisposed people to higher risks of cardiovascular disease in later life, and will attempt to pinpoint the most sensitive period of exposure.

The third phase aims to understand if air pollution exposure and shorter telomeres in adulthood are related to future death from cardiovascular disease, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

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