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News September 30, 2009 //  by  // Comments

EPA grants $3.2M to UH research

The Environmental Protection Agency awarded UH $3.2 million to join the Texas A&M University and Indiana University in developing the Texas-Indiana Virtual STAR (TIVS) Center, a virtual developmental toxicity research center.

The research will track how chemicals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene and carbon monoxide pose dangers to humans in embryonic states.

‘We aim to identify chemicals that specifically disturb embryonic development, thus we wish to protect the unborn baby,’ Maria Bondesson-Bolin, a UH research assistant professor involved with the TIVS Center, said.

The funding will allow UH to purchase new equipment and to add one additional post doctorate, lab tech and Ph.D. student.

‘ ‘We very much wanted to work with Richard Finnell and James Glazier because of their great expertise in embryonic stem cells and computer simulations, respectively,’ Bondesson-Bolin said.

This research is a continuation of work that Director of the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling Jan-Ake Gustafsson, started at the Karolinska Institute near Stockholm, Sweden.

‘ ‘This program, called CASCADE, is aimed at studying so called endocrine disrupting compounds, chemicals that interfere with hormone signaling,’ Bondesson-Bolin said. ‘In CASCADE, we developed methods to identify endocrine disruptors. And now we specifically will develop methods for early development.”

CASCADE is a program that researches the effects of chemical residues in food and drinking water on humans, according to Nanowerk News.

The research will use zebra fish because they are inexpensive and produce embryos quickly, according to a UH press release.

‘The new methods will be based on zebra fish embryonic development (here at UH) and differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (at Texas A&M) and then the results from these models will be used to simulate development in computers (at Indiana University),’ Bondesson-Bolin said.

Doing research on the zebra fish will allow researchers to determine if there is a specific period of time when embryos are more susceptible to toxins during their development.

‘In the long run, everyone will benefit from a safer chemical handling,’ Bondesson-Bolin said. ‘

‘As it is today, more than 80,000 industrial chemicals are on the U.S. market, but only a few have been thoroughly investigated to determine their hazardous effects on human health.’


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