Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington join in national effort to study health impact of toxic substances

Consortium can help us better understand genetic differences that make some people more sensitive to environmental exposures." The consortium's four laboratory-based projects will focus on the effects of various toxic substances on breast-cancer development, how exposures to certain pesticides may affect behavior in children, environmental factors that may harm the developing nervous system, and the development of laboratory tests that can replace animal testing.

Below are brief descriptions of each project:

Project 1: Many environmental factors can harm the development of the nervous system in infants before and after birth. These factors can include exposure to metals such as methyl mercury, nutritional changes, and physical factors such as hyperthermia (exposure to excessive heat, which can occur if a pregnant woman experiences a high fever). Adverse neurodevelopmental effects of exposures can range from behavioral changes to major birth defects such as spina bifida. The goal of this project is to use genomic approaches to improve the understanding of how environmental factors can damage the developing nervous system and so improve our ability to identify and prevent birth defects. (Project leaders: Elaine Faustman, Ph.D., professor of environmental health, UW; Philip Mirkes, Ph.D., research professor of pediatrics, UW.)

Project 2: The goal of this project is to gain a better understanding of how exposures to certain pesticides can affect the behavior of children. The researchers are focusing on the HDL-associated plasma enzyme paraoxonase, which provides protection from the effects of exposures to some organophosphates, a group of chemicals that includes the pesticides chlorpyrifos and diazinon. Children produce very little paraoxonase enzyme until they are about a year old, and so are extremely vulnerable to these chemical exposures. (Project leaders: Clement Furlong, Ph.D., research professor of medical genetics, UW; Lucio Costa, Ph.D., pro

Contact: Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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