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  • CEG News at a Glance, 2020 Aug\Sept: PDF
  • CEG News at a Glance, 2020 July\Aug: PDF

Photo headshot of Dr. Peter Stambook, University of CincinnatiWe mourn the loss of longtime friend and CEG Internal Advisory Board member Peter Stambrook, PhD, former chair of the Department of Cancer & Cell Biology, who died on Oct 1.  As noted in an announcement from the College of Medicine, Dr. Stambrook was an internationally respected cancer researcher who early in his post-doctoral career pioneered the use of recombinant DNA technology at Case Western Reserve University.  He had become interested in DNA replication & cell cycle regulation as a graduate student and was the first to show that, in a vertebrate organism, the temporal sequence with which DNA duplicates itself can change during embryogenesis. More recently, his work was focused on understanding genomic instability, particularly as it relates to cancer, and on a critical signaling pathway that responds to DNA damage. During his career he received more than $28.5 million in research funding and held 2 U.S. patents. For 32 years Dr. Stambrook directed a National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Environmental Carcinogenesis & Mutagenesis Training Grant at UC that supported more than 100 trainees. Stambrook collaborator and CEG Associate Director Alvaro Puga, Ph.D., said that others "should know how much effort he dedicated to getting that grant funded this last year, at a time that his strength was already dwindling.... He battled fiercely for the training and development of the students, challenging them to think and establishing a scientific and personal rapport with them that would last for many years."  The CEG extends heartfelt condolences to Dr. Stambrook's beloved wife, Mary, daughter Elizabeth, and the entire family.  To read more about Dr. Stambrook's lifetime of achievement, click here.

CEG members Chia-I Ko, PhD, and Kelly Brunst, PhD, have received awards from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS): Dr. Ko, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences, has been awarded nearly a quarter of a million dollars in year 1 for her study, “Disruption of Pluripotency by Dioxin Exposure,” R21 ES031190. Dr. Brunst, an assistant professor in the Division of Epidemiology, has been awarded more than a half million dollars in year 1 for her 5-year R01 study, R01 ES031054, “Epigenetics, Air Pollution, and Childhood Mental Health.”

brunstkellyBrunst’s study seeks to determine whether exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) during childhood and adolescence impacts the epigenome and whether changes in DNA methylation can be used to identify children at increased risk for anxiety and depression. Using the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS) and Health Outcomes and Measures of the Environment (HOME) study birth cohort, the Brunst team will conduct an epigenome-wide search for DNA methylation biomarkers associated with PM2.5 and TRAP exposure prenatally through age 12 years (n=500) and identify unique and pollution-related DNA methylation signatures associated with anxiety and depression. The team will aim to replicate its findings in a third, independent birth cohort, Project Viva (n=652), with similar sociodemographic characteristics and available air pollution and neuro-developmental outcome data. Brunst is a former CEG New Investigator Awardee (2018–2020) and recent CEG Pilot project recipient: 2018 New Investigator Award (NIA) “Epigenetic mechanisms linking traffic-related air pollution and brain structure and function ($40,000) and 2020 Innovator Award, “Fluoride exposure, mitochondrial function and mental health” ($29,465)

ko-chia-i-jpegKo’s R-21 study will use an advanced 3D chromatin structure approach to study toxic effects in pluripotency networks resulting from environmental exposure. Dr. Ko’s in vivo model is expected to lead to better understanding of the mechanisms of developmental toxicity of dioxins, making it possible to arrive at prevention and intervention approaches to deal with embryonic environmental injury. Earlier this year Dr. Ko received a $15,000 Pilot award (innovator award category) from the CEG for her project, “Disruption of pluripotency and differentiation of preimplantation embryonic cells by dioxin exposure.”

Dr. Ko is among several CEG-affiliated researchers honored by the UC College of Medicine Office of Research in its 2020 Gallery of Awardees. The Gallery features faculty members who have been awarded external grants of $100,000/yr or more in direct costs and is displayed in the CARE/Crawley Atrium, as well as via electronic posters\digital signage throughout east campus. The 2020 Gallery of Awardees has included CEG member and 2019 CEG Pilot awardee Senu Apewokin, M.D., who has received a 5-year K-08 award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his study “Harnessing induced human intestinal organoids (IHIOS) and metagenomics to unravel host immune-microbiota interactions during cancer chemotherapy-associated clostridium difficile infections.Photo of Senu Apewokin, MD, January 2020 television news report     

In August, Dr. Apewokin received a Step 1 Processes & Method Award under the UC Center for Clinical and Translational Science and Training (CCTST) Processes & Methods Grant Program. Together with Dr. Zhang Peng of the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Apewokin received the CCTST award for the project “Non-invasive hydrogen monitoring for microbiome assessments during chemotherapy." Dr. Apewokin, a specialist in Infectious Diseases, collaborated with CEG Director Susan M. Pinney, Ph.D., F.A.C.E., on the CEG-funded Pilot project “Association between PFOA Exposure and Humoral Responses to Pneumococcal Vaccines” (2019 New to Environmental Health Science award, $25K).  Dr. Apewokin is pictured at right in a local television news interview conducted earlier this year on the then-looming CoVid19 pandemic.

tso-patrickThe 2020 Gallery of Awardees has also featured CEG members Katie Burns, Ph.D., and her funded study, “Targeting Neutrophilic Responses in the Initiation of Endometriosis,” and Patrick Tso, Ph.D., Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, for his work on the “Evaluation of Structural and Compositional Lipid Technologies Upon Nutrient Absorption and Deposition.”

Navigating ASSIST for human subjects and clinical trials: The Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking (ASSIST) system is used to submit applications electronically to NIEHS and other NIH and Public Health Service agencies. It is also used to ensure PIs' compliance with timely reporting of Human Subjects Study inclusion enrollment data, etc. Delays and errors in Human Subjects reporting via ASSIST can delay or jeopardize individual and Center funding; hence, this guidance from NIEHS staff specialist Martha Barnes, M.S. is important for PIs and their staff: PPT slides accessible here (PDF). Webinar recording accessible here (mp4 file).

CEG Internal Advisory Board approved as of May 2020 the admission of three new CEG Associate members and New Investigator Awardees (NIAs): Drs. Angelico Mendy, Jun Wang, and Patrick Ray. As an NIA, each early career investigator will receive limited Jr faculty salary support and active mentoring in EHS research.

mendyangelicoAngelico Mendy, MD, MPH, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the UC Department of Environmental and Public Health Sciences. Dr. Mendy completed a postbaccalaureate Intramural Research Training Award in the Environmental Cardiopulmonary Disease Group at NIEHS. His research there covered the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals on respiratory health and examined whether these effects might be mediated by epigenetic changes, recently reporting the association of bisphenols F and S used as bisphenol A (BPA) substitutes with asthma and allergic outcomes. His other interests include the identification of phenotypes of complex diseases and the effect modification by serum levels of antioxidant vitamins (A, C, and E) on the relationship of ambient air pollutants and asthma outcomes.

wang-junJun Wang, PhD, PE, CIH, CSP, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Environmental and Industrial Hygiene, where he oversees the Workplace Aerosol and Gaseous Lab (WANG Lab) in the UC Center for Health-Related Aerosol Studies (CHRAS). His research interests include measuring emission of airborne toxins from notable environmental sources; developing methodologies to quantify cytotoxicity, oxidative potential, and respiratory deposition of ultrafine aerosols and nanoparticles; and designing next-generation sensory detection and engineering control to reduce inhalation exposure. Dr. Wang has proposed as part of his commitment to the mission of the CEG a multi-faceted study aiming to understand how metal exposures (manganese, lead, mercury, etc.) introduce neuroinflammation through magnolia activation and cytokines overproduction, and how learning, memory, and other developmental markers in youth are affected by environmental exposure to metals.

patrickalexanderrayDr. Patrick Ray, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Chemical and Environmental Engineering in the UC College of Engineering and Applied Science. Dr. Ray completed his undergraduate and graduate studies in Massachusetts: B.Sc., University of Massachusetts, Amherst 2001. M.Sc., Tufts University, 2006 (Civil & Environmental Engineering, Water Resources). Ph.D., Tufts 2010 (Water Resources Engineering). Postdoc, UMass-Amherst, 2014 (Water Systems Modeling under Uncertainty). He has served as Principal Investigator on awards from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Ohio Water Development Authority (Multi-dimensional risk assessment on riverine Contamination: Case study of Cincinnati) and World Bank (Group Climate Change Risk Assessment of Expanded Upper Arun Hydropower Facility, Nepal). In 2015 Dr. Ray received the World Bank Knowbel Prize Team Award.

The CEG Internal Advisory Board approved in 2019 the admission of five new CEG Associate members Ashley Merianos, Ph.D.; Katherine Vest, Ph.D.; Sakthivel Sadayappan, Ph.D., M.B.A.; Wen-Hai Shao, Ph.D. and Maobing Tu, Ph.D.

ashleylmerianos0120webDr. Ashley Merianos is an Assistant Professor of Health Education and Promotion. Her primary research and teaching interests include substance use prevention and control, health services research, social and behavioral epidemiology, and program evaluation. She holds a K01 award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (2017-2022) for a study on Reducing Secondhand Smoke Exposure Among Pediatric Patients in the Emergency Department Setting, and is a co-investigator with CEG member Melinda Mahabee-Gittens, M.D., Ph.D., on a study of the Prevalence and Clinical Correlates of Thirdhand Smoke Exposure in a Pediatric Patient Population (NIEHS R01 ES030743; 08/15/2019 – 07/31/202.

vestkatherine_lowresDr. Ketherine Vest is an Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics in the UC College of Medicine. The Vest lab is currently investigating how RNA binding proteins regulate expression of genes important for mitochondrial metabolism and MuSC function.She was an Ohio Eminent Scholar (2018) and from 2016 through 2019 studied myogenesis and RNA biogenesis in a mouse model of OPMD with a Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32 award) from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

shaowen_hai_lowresDr. Weh-Hai Shao is an Assistant Professor in the UC College of Medicine and its Division of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology. He currently holds a nearly three-quarters of a million dollars R01 award from NIDDK for his study of AXL Receptor Tyrosine Kinase, a Potential Therapeutic Target in Glomerulonenephritis (R01 DK116789, 04/1/19 – 03/31/22). He has received repeated travel awards to the International Congress of Immunology, where he was a recent invited speaker (Beijing, 2019) and is an editor of the Journal of Molecular Epidemiology.

sakthivelsadayappanphdmbaportraitDr. Sakthivel Sadayappan is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine and Director of Heart Branch of the Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute. Goals of the Sadayappan lab include (1) elucidating the causes of muscle-specific diseases at the molecular level, and (2) identifying therapeutic targets that will lead to the development of effective cures. In October 2019 Dr. Sadayappan was among the faculty members, staff and trainees honored by the UC College of Medicine Division of Cardiovascular Disease and the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute for distinguished contributions toward understanding, diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease and stroke. At the event, called "Celebration of the Heart," Dr. Sadayappan was recognized for receiving a pre-doctoral Institutional Research award from the American Heart Association.

tumaobing1664webDr. Maobing Tu is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical & Environmental Engineering, UC College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. His research interests include chemical & environmental engineering, bioprocess engineering, yeast and bacterial metabolomics, microbiome analysis, and biodegradation.In 2018 her received a UC CEAS Master Educator Award and was named a UC Trans-disciplinary Research Leadership Program Scholar. He serves as a reviewer for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, the Journal of Biotechnology, Green Chemistry, and numerous other journals.

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