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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

Your Online Source for NIEHS News

February 2020

Exposure research bolstered by new NIEHS resource

Scientists studying how chemical, biological, and social stressors affect human health will gain access to state-of-the-art research tools.

David Balshaw, Ph.D. “NIEHS is continuing to look at the complexities of studying the exposome,” said Balshaw. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS is expanding access to exposure analysis resources, giving scientists advanced tools to better understand how the interaction of various environmental factors can affect health.

The Human Health Exposure Analysis Resource (HHEAR) promises to strengthen research on how chemical, biological, and social stressors influence health. The program will assist eligible grantees who seek to include such analysis in their studies.

HHEAR builds on the success of a previous program, the Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource. The new initiative is funded until 2024 by NIEHS; the National Cancer Institute; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program. Affiliated grant recipients, including those from the NIEHS Superfund Research Program, can apply (see sidebar).

Leaders provided details about HHEAR during a Jan. 14 webinar. “Human health is the product of both genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure, but many human health studies have not fully considered the environmental exposures that may affect an individual's well-being,” said David Balshaw, Ph.D., who directs the program.

“To better understand how the totality of environmental exposures, known as the exposome, may affect health and lead to disease, researchers need access to the analytical capabilities necessary to accurately measure, record, and analyze environmental exposures,” noted Balshaw.

Set up for success

Yuxia Cui, Ph.D. Cui is a health scientist administrator in the Exposure, Response, and Technology Branch, which is part of the Division of Extramural Research and Training. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

HHEAR will provide the following resources at no cost to its participating researchers.

  • A network of exposure analysis laboratories — These labs will provide cutting-edge technologies to evaluate biological and environmental samples, such as blood, urine, and drinking water.
  • Data science tools — The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai will support data storage, analysis, and integration of data generated by the HHEAR labs.
  • Administrative support — The Westat corporation will be the primary point of contact between clients and the HHEAR program. The company will coordinate efforts across lab hubs and track projects, materials, and analyses.

“To deal with the complexity of investigating the exposome, a variety of tools are necessary,” said Yuxia Cui, Ph.D., a program officer for HHEAR. “[Our new resource] provides researchers with state-of-the-art exposure analysis, the confidence of quality assurance for all data, and expert consultation on study design, exposure analysis, and data analysis and interpretation.”

(Sheena Scruggs, Ph.D., is a digital outreach coordinator in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison).

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