Humans might be on the top of natural food chain, but they still have to be wary of environmental dangers. One such danger that is often overlooked in the excitement of producing new things, like the next model of iPhone or a pair of solar contact lenses, is the effect of man-made products on the environment, and the subsequent consequences on human health. Fortunately, this is the research focus of the Center for Environmental Genetics, located at the University of Cincinnati.
The Center for Environmental Genetics (CEG) has a new take on biotechnology: studying the effects of technology on life from a holistic and environmental level. “Environmental chemicals and their potential health effects are increasingly part of the public consciousness,” notes deputy director of the center, Susan Pinney, in a recent business journal. That’s why the CEG focuses on funding and carrying out research on environmental toxicants and how people’s genes predispose them to illness from these toxicants.
To that end, the CEG has three dedicated sections that each specialize in a particular bioresearch field. The “bioinformatics core” analyzes protein function and gene expression in the body and formulates ideas on how drugs may be produced and administered most effectively. The “integrative technologies core” specializes in genome sequencing, high-field magnetic resonance imaging, spectroscopy, and flow cytometry. Finally, the “integrative health science core” designs both research studies and clinical trials relevant to the center.
The CEG also uses its funds to award pilot grants to projects like determining the effect of BPA on the endocrine and cardiovascular systems, or of Perfluorooctanoic acid (found in Teflon and Gore-Tex) on the epigenome and developmental programming. They also offer a career development program that trains environmental health science researchers. These activities, performed while the CEG carries out its own research expand research far beyond the scope of the center itself.
That’s why the NIH has awarded the center with an $8.7 million grant to continue operations. In the words of Shuk-mei Ho (above), PhD, who is the director of the center, "This grant validates the important work of the CEG and will allow us to continue to conduct state-of-the-art environmental research at UC’s Academic Health Center and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.” For more information of the funding of the CEG and other factions of the University of Cincinnati, see our Cincinnati Funding Report below.
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