e•Bulletin: 2014 - Issue 7

UW-SRP Core Profile | Agency Collaboration | UW-SRP Trainee Profile | Community Profile

Welcome to the University of Washington's Superfund Research Program (UW-SRP) e*bulletin! We offer a few snapshots highlighting some our program's recent work, as well as providing links to interesting upcoming talks and events. Our Principal Investigator, Dr. Evan Gallagher, and Research Translation Community Engagement Core Director, Dr. Tom Burbacher, invite you to please read and enjoy the stories that catch your eye.


UW-SRP Core Profile: Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics

Fred Farin and Theo BammlerUniversity of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW-SRP) Functional Genomics and Bioinformatics Core Laboratory (Core lab) recently acquired 'next generation gene sequencing instrumentation' that enables them to offer timely and effective sequencing applications for research scientists to provide important information about cell function. The Core lab works with UW-SRP scientists to measure both physiological and genetic changes associated with neurotoxic exposures in humans and wildlife.

Investigators Evan Gallagher and Clement Furlong are already benefiting from this 'next generation sequencing' capability. For Dr. Gallagher, the sequencing technology assesses the effects of heavy metal exposure on methylation profiles of fish olfactory tissue (DNA methylation is a biochemical process that impacts gene expression and is central to normal cell differentiation and organism development). Dr. Furlong's research examines the role that PON enzymes play in modulating the toxicity and neurotoxicity of organophosphates (OP). This is important because some people are more susceptible than others to the toxic effects of OP exposure. Dr. Furlong is now better able to determine an organism's 'methylation status' (via custom methylation assay methods) providing predictive information about gene regulation as a result of organophosphate pesticides exposure.

The Core lab directors, Fred Farin and Theo Bammler, play an integral role for UW-SRP research by consulting with program investigators on study protocols, design, and the functional genomic approaches in each individual project.

Agency Collaboration: Collaborative on Health and the Environment - Washington

Northwest Children's Environmental Health ForumA successful Northwest Children's Environmental Health Forum was held near Seattle, in December 2013. This was the third in a series of biennial conferences on children's environmental health. The focus of this educational forum was harmful environmental exposures that may occur before and during pregnancy. This year, nationally recognized speakers and scientists, including Peggy Shepard (executive director of WE-ACT for Environmental Justice), Kim Harley (lead researcher on the CHAMOS Study at the Center for Environmental Research & Children's Health University of California Berkeley) and Ted Schettler (science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network), participated on panels. Materials for the forum can be accessed here.

The event was organized by the Children's Environmental Health Working Group, a part of the Collaborative on Health and the Environment - Washington (CHE-WA), which is a chapter of the national CHE organization. The CHE mission includes strengthening science dialogue on environmental factors impacting human health. CHE-WA was established a decade ago and today its members include researchers, healthcare providers, local, state and federal agencies, community businesses, professional organizations and individuals invested in environmental health. The goals of CHE resonate with the public and have a natural tie to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) programs like the Superfund Research Program (SRP). Last fall, the Boston University-SRP organized a national conference call with CHE highlighting environmental justice work done by their program and peer SRPs. The University of Washington-SRP originally became involved with CHE-WA activities in 2005 through our partnership with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and its associated Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU). Next month the UW-SRP will co-sponsor the PEHSU annual Research Matters Conference.

UW-SRP Trainee Profile: Keum Young Lee

Keum Young Lee

Keum Young Lee, a Superfund Research Program Trainee at the University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, received her doctorate in December, 2013. Keum's leading-edge research has opened the door for certain long-lived tree species to be considered as viable field study candidates for chlorpyrifos phytoremediation. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to clean up contaminated soil. Keum worked in Sharon Doty's lab (UW-SRP Project 5) to explore the ability of willow and poplar plants to metabolize and remove the pesticide chlorpyrifos from a plant mineral nutrient solution in the laboratory. The experiment explored toxicity along with the plant's ability to uptake chlorpyrifos and determine its ability to metabolize the chemical.

Chlorpyrifos was developed to control soil borne insects that damage crops and has been used around the world. Although the pesticide has been restricted from residential use, it is still employed in agricultural production in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) tell us that Chlorpyrifos is considered a significant threat to human health that includes poisoning, human birth defects and effects on male infertility. For agencies that protect the environment and our health, finding effective means for removing chlorpyrifos from soils is important. (To learn more about EPA's interest in phytoremediation and related technologies click here.) The results of her dissertation, Phytoremediation of Chlorpyrifos Insecticide: The Use of Woody Plants and Transgenics to Enhance and Understand the Uptake, Translocation, and Transformation of Chlorpyrifos, show that phytoremediation of this pesticide may be possible using willow and poplar trees, which are fast growing species.

Keum has long been committed to making a positive difference in the health of the environment. Her previous research on enhancing phytoremediation via the use of transgenic plants was awarded honors at the ‘International Phytotechnology Society’s Eighth Conference’ in 2011. Keum’s next career steps will draw her outside the realm of academic research, allowing her to actively apply her knowledge as an environmental scientist in the Pacific Northwest.

Community Profile: Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition

Northwest Toxic Communitties Coalition Summit

Each year since 2005, the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition (NWTCC) has held a summit-style annual organizational meeting. The coalition was originally conceived by a handful of community groups that were working independently on their local waste site or pollution issues, and faced multiple layers of challenges and uncertainty. Today the NWTCC includes members from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington representing a broad geographic region and sharing many common experiences. Hazardous waste and environmental pollution are often: historic in origin, have complex ties to the local economy, and require governmental agency actions to be taken from site 'designation' all the way through to the cleanup process for 'remediation'.

The cleanup process takes many years, often decades. So it makes perfect sense that nine years after their first meeting, the coalition would want to reflect and honor intermediate successes achieved by its member organizations, and acknowledge the important role that investigative reporters and environmental journalists play in bringing their stories to the public eye. Robert McClure, a writer with Investigate West- Investigative journalism for the Pacific Northwest, was given an award of appreciation for his work, such as his 2011 feature on Seattle's Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site. Author Kathie Durbin was honored posthumously; she wrote the award-winning book Bridging a Great Divide - The Battle for the Columbia River Gorge published in 2013. Kathie had been an investigative journalist in Oregon for much of her career.

Please follow the links to learn more about the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition, it's members, annual summits, and the coalition's role in establishing a regional outdoor air quality workshop for communities in collaboration with Region 10 EPA and University of Washington Superfund Research Program.

^ top

Researchers and Partners in Action

Findings of Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen (Project 2) showed that consumption of peppers is associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson Disease. Now the vegetable has been selected as an 'Everyday Food All-Star' by 'O, The Oprah Magazine'. See March 2014 issue.

Congratulations to Travis Cook (Project 3, Dr. Zhang) and Andrew Yeh (Project 4, Dr. Gallagher) on successfully passing their PhD General Examination! Travis presented his doctoral research proposal, "The Pathogeneis of Mortalin in Manganese-Induced Parkinsonism," (a snapshot of his work is described here). Andrew presented his research proposal on "Sublethal dysfunction of the mitochondrial electron transport chain from exposure to contaminants of emerging concern" (one of the research aims is captured in this Washington Sea Grant feature).

UW - SRP Research Translation Core director and manager (Dr. Thomas Burbacher and Katie Frevert) met with the federal EPA Director for the Office of Environmental Justice (Matt Tejada) and the Associate Assistant Administrator for Environmental Justice (Lisa Garcia) in January, 2014. The Federal EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy is interested in strengthening EPA collaborations with academia.

The 'Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition - Technical Advisory Group' is one of many organizations whose actions demonstrate that 'communities can be leaders in environmental equity' from the Bronx to Seattle. Hear more in this feature produced by Green Acre Radio.

Upcoming Events

March 5, 2014

UW - SRP will cosponsor the Pediatric Environmental Health Speciality Unit's Children's Environmental Health Research Matters Conference.

March 23-27, 2014

Project 1 trainees, Stephanie Suzuki and Dr. Judit Marsillach will present their research findings at the Society Of Toxicology Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ.

June 24-27, 2014

Dr. Susan Searles Nielsen (Project 2) will present her research findings 'Inducible nitric oxide synthase gene methylation and parkinsonism in manganese-exposed welders' at the International Epidemiology in Occupational Health National Conference in Chicago, IL.

June 29-July 2, 2014

The Teratology Society and Neurobehavioral Teratology Society will meet in Bellevue, Washington. Dr. Thomas Burbacher, the current President of the Neurobehavioral Teratology Society, is part of the planning committee for the meetings, which will include symposia on epigenetic mechanisms related to birth defects and developmental disabilities and genetic determinants of health effects from environmental exposures.

Bulletin Archive

2013 - Issue 6

2013 - Issue 5

2012 - Issue 4

2012 - Issue 3

2012 - Issue 2

2011 - Issue 1


© 2007-2014 Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington