Pilot Project Recipients Year 5

Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Health in the CHDWB Cohort (TRAPHIC Study)

Stefanie Sarnat, Emory University, School of Public Health

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year in 2013. A growing body of evidence indicates that ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5; particulate matter with aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 microns), especially primary PM2.5 from traffic sources, is an important ubiquitous environmental risk factor for CVD. The primary objective of this pilot is to gather preliminary data for assessing traffic-related PM2.5 and health using data collected from over 700 Emory University employees over 5 years [the Center for Health Discovery and Well-Being (CHDWB) cohort]. To do so, this project will link state-of-the-art exposure information from ambient traffic-related PM2.5 modeling with extensive clinical measurements and metabolomics data gathered on cohort members. Together, researchers anticipate an ideal and novel setting for investigating biological mechanisms of traffic-related air pollution exposures.

Dr. Stefanie Sarnat is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. Her research focuses on examining cardiovascular and respiratory effects of ambient air quality using population- and panel-based approaches.

Pediatric Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Arsenic

Carmen Marsit, Emory University, School of Public Health

Miriam Vos, Emory University, School of Medicine

Jennifer Frediani, Emory University, School of Medicine

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has rapidly increased to become the most common liver disease in children. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the more severe form of NAFLD. Although NAFLD appears to be strongly genetic, prevalent in both Hispanic and Asian populations, the polymorphisms identified are insufficient to fully explain risk. Arsenic is a highly prevalent environmental contaminant of food and water supplies, and animal models suggest a mechanistic role of an arsenic-diet interaction in NAFLD. This pilot will explore whether children with NAFLD have elevated arsenic levels in both urine and nail samples compared to age- and gender-matched, healthy children without NAFLD, and whether levels are highest in those children with NASH and fibrosis. Researchers will also assess preliminary relationships between diet, disease severity, and arsenic in children with NAFLD.

Dr. Carmen Marsit is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. His research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms responsible for mediating the impact of the environment in human disease. Dr. Miriam Vos is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Emory School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, and her work examines the etiology and clinical significance of liver complications in children. Jennifer Frediani is a Research Associate in Pediatrics at the Emory School of Medicine and is developing a novel research program incorporating metabolomics measures in obesity related phenotypes in children.

Mechanisms Underlying Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: A Pilot and Feasibility Study

Young-Mi Go, Emory University, School of Medicine
National Human Ecology Action League (HEAL), Community Collaborator

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) is an environmentally triggered disability with symptoms that include headache, dizziness, muscle and joint pain, respiratory problems, gastric problems, extreme fatigue and unusual memory loss. Common MCS triggers include fragrances, pesticides, building materials, new carpets, cleaning products, and cigarette smoke.  In collaboration with a local community organization, HEAL, this project will develop a simple, low-burden approach to investigate environmental contributions to MCS in humans. Using silicone badges, investigators will develop and validate an untargeted screening assay for passive environmental sampling. To approach personalized exposomics measures for MCS, investigators will use xMWAS “R” script to integrate data collected on behavioral influences on environmental exposures (diet, personal behaviors, spatial/geographic location) with environmental and biomonitoring data. Research from this pilot could help lead to an understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying MCS and an evaluation of effective interventions.

Dr. Young-Mi Go is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Emory’s School of Medicine. Her research focuses on identifying redox signaling and control mechanisms and metabolic responses associated with cardiovascular disease and environmental toxicants. HEAL is an Atlanta-based, non-profit organization that has served people with MCS since 1981.

Disrupting the Spatial Patterns of Antibiotic Resistance in the Infant Microbiome in Pathogen-Rich Settings

Joe Brown, Georgia Tech, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Less than a century after the advent of the modern antibiotic era, antibiotic resistance (AbR) threatens to stall the advances of clinical practice and render treatments ineffective. Study of transmission of AbR genes to the youngest children living in environments rich in pathogens can provide the earliest indications of the effects of improving wastewater containment on environmental transmission of AbR. To this end, this pilot will analyze AbR within the context of the MapSan study: a controlled before-and-after study of the effect of an engineered sanitation infrastructure intervention within densely-populated, urban compounds on enteric infection in children under five in Maputo, Mozambique. Researchers will characterize and geographically map AbR genes from infant gut microbiomes to understand the spatial variability of acquired resistance across the built environment. Further, comparison of areas with improved and poor sanitation infrastructure for changes in the spatial distribution and clustering of AbR genes will begin to provide causative evidence for any effects observed.

Dr. Joe Brown is an Assistant Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech. His research focuses on water and sanitation infrastructure stability and engineering applications in underserved communities.

Impact of Atmospheric Aerosol Oxidative Potential on the Redox Regulatory Network of Cells

Rodney Weber, Georgia Tech, School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Ambient fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is a significant health risk, ranked 10th out of 67 environmental risk factors leading to premature death in North America (Global Burden of Disease). Despite demonstrated associations between PM2.5 and various health endpoints, the specific aerosol chemical components driving PM2.5 toxicity remains an open question. This pilot will investigate cellular oxidation by PM2.5 and a possible exacerbation of lung epithelial damage by ambient fine particulate matter in the presence of widely prescribed prescription drugs. This research provides a basis for future studies on cellular responses to Atlanta aerosol components, connecting aerosol chemistry, cellular responses, and association to health endpoints by large population epidemiology through the model of aerosol oxidative potential and the oxidative stress response paradigm.

Dr. Rodney Weber is a Professor in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.  His research focuses on atmospheric aerosols, sources, and processes, and urban air quality and health effects.

A Pilot High-Resolution Metabolomics Study of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Veronika Fedirko, Emory University, School of Public Health

Since the 1970s, the incidence on NHL has increased by 3% to 4% annually. It was proposed that the increase in NHL incidence, in part, parallels expansion of industrial production in the US, suggesting that occupational and environmental chemical exposures are risk factors for NHL.  This pilot aims to identify systemic metabolites, metabolite profiles, and metabolomic pathways (with special emphasis on metabolites and pathways related to exposures to specific carcinogenic chemicals) that are associated with NHL risk, examine whether the metabolomic profiles and metabolomic pathways differ by common NHL subtypes, and calculate the sample size needed for larger metabolomic studies of incident NHL risk. The long-term goals of this project are to further our understanding of the environmental, occupational, lifestyle, genetic, and epigenetic factors affecting non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) risk, to identify interactions among these factors in relation to risk, and to develop practical biomarkers of NHL risk that can be used for clinical risk identification and stratification.

Dr. Veronika Fedirko is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health. Her research focuses on the etiology, epidemiology, and outcomes of gastrointestinal cancers.

Developing Advanced PM2.5 Exposure Models in Lima, Peru

Yang Liu, Emory University, School of Public Health

In 2012, the WHO estimated that 3.7 million deaths globally were attributable to ambient PM pollution, ~88% of which occur in low- and middle-income countries. Lack of PM2.5 exposure estimates has been a major limiting factor to evaluate its associated health outcomes in the developing world with little or no surface monitoring due to high operational costs. This pilot aims to develop high-performance satellite-driven PM2.5 exposure models to estimate daily PM2.5 concentrations at 1 km spatial resolution in Lima for year 2010 to 2016 using ground observations, satellite data, and simulations from an air quality model.  Successful completion of this project will provide a model of how such air pollution estimation can be done in areas with limited ground monitoring in Latin America, which in turn permits time-series studies of air-pollution associated health endpoints.

Dr. Liu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Health at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health.  His research focuses on the application of satellite remote sensing in air pollution exposure modeling and health effects studies at urban to national scales, as well as the potential impacts of global climate change on public health.