Four new research centers to explore link between oceans and human health

n and to leverage resources to support the highest quality interdisciplinary research.

"The NIEHS and the National Science Foundation support complementary sets of expertise that can be brought together in the study of oceans and human health," said Kenneth Olden, director of the NIEHS. "These federal agencies have joined forces in order to harmonize their corresponding strengths."

"Oceans have become conduits for a number of environmental threats to human health," said Olden. "At the same time, oceans harbour a diverse array of organisms that show great promise for providing new drugs to combat cancer and fight infectious diseases. In order to guard against health threats, and to take advantage of medicinal benefits that oceans might provide, the impact of oceans on human health must be more fully explored."

The four centers, their directors, and programs are:

  • The center at the University of Washington, directed by Elaine Faustman, will study toxic algae and how toxic domoic acid produced by algae accumulates in Puget Sound shellfish. Researchers will explore the ways in which this toxin affects human health through the consumption of contaminated seafood, especially in sensitive populations such as children.
  • The center at the University of Hawaii, directed by Ed Laws, will study ciguatoxin-producing organisms and develop improved methods for detecting these toxins in fish and humans. Researchers will also conduct studies of microbial pathogens in tropical coastal waters to learn more about their sources, survival and ecology. A pharmaceutical initiative will focus on extracts from tropical microorganisms, and their potential application in the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases.
  • The center at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, directed by John Stegeman, will study populations of the toxic plankton Alexandrium in the Gulf of Maine and the relationship of its various genotypes to its toxici


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