December 2022 Research Voucher Awardees

Congratulations to CIEHS members who recently received IHSFC, OEFC and PPP Research Vouchers!

Interdisciplinary Pilot Project Awards:

Principal Investigator: Anna Gumpert, Ph.D.
Collaborator: Daniel Conklin, Ph.D.
Title:  "Combined Effects of Air Pollution and Hypertension on Cardiovascular Remodeling"
Description of Project: Air pollution is ubiquitous, and exposure to air pollution is associated with 200,000 excessive deaths yearly in the U.S., of which the majority (60–80%) is due to cardiovascular disease. Although air pollution is typically higher in urban centers, unique sources of air pollution including particulate matter (PM) and gases (volatile organic compounds) can occur anywhere. One such phenomenon was observed in the past few years when widespread wildfires throughout North America contributed to increased air pollution both locally but also at distant locations. Additionally, rurally located industrial sources of air pollution can disproportionally contribute to local air pollution, as witnessed by the hemp processing plant located in western Kentucky. These exposure events demonstrate that air pollution is a health issue everywhere including in Kentuckiana and regionally. We will use Louisville’s particulate air pollution to perform controlled exposures to better understand the ways that air pollution influences cardiovascular health. Ultimately, we want to better protect the health of members of our regional community and worldwide with special emphasis on those who have pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure – the most important modifiable risk factor of cardiovascular disease in the world.

Principal Investigator: Mikus Abolins-Abols, Ph.D. and Ray Yeager, Ph.D.
Title: "Songbirds as air pollution sentinels for public health: jointly testing the effect of pollution on avian and human stress and inflammation markers"
Description of Project: Exposure to air pollution has well documented negative effect on human health. However, assessing the health risk of air pollution at a local scale can be difficult due to many barriers to localized human studies. Using wild animals as bioindicators of pollution can solve these issues. Birds and mammals respond to pollution in very similar ways to humans, and large numbers of animals can be sampled more rapidly and affordably than humans. In this study, we will ask if American robins, common native urban songbirds, can serve as bioindicators for air pollution by comparing how air pollution affects health of both robins and humans in the same locations. This study has the potential to provide new insights on the burden of pollution exposure on cardiovascular disease across diverse communities in Louisville and other cities across the South and Midwest. This work could ultimately inform novel ways to identify, assess, and develop interventions to environmental health issues.

Principal Investigator: Haixun Guo, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: Lu Cai, M.D., Ph.D.
Title: "64Cu-PET metallomics for non-invasively tracing copper distribution in response to cadmium and/or HFD"
Description of Project: Cadmium has been known to cause a variety of ill effects from acute and chronic exposure, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle cramps, liver injury, convulsions, and kidney failure. Long-term exposure to environmental contaminated metals, such as cadmium in drinking water and food has been linked to health problems such as liver, bone, and blood damage (US. Environmental Protection Agency, 2003). Although cadmium in Kentucky groundwater rarely exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL), Kentucky has been ranked number one as cadmium contamination by EPA, due to the coal mine and other industries. For instance, cadmium concentrations might expect to be higher in western Kentucky (specifically Caldwell, Crittenden, and Livingston Counties), where fluorspar was mined in the 1940’s, because of the association of barium and galena (lead ore) with fluorite. The Eastern Kentucky Coal Field also contains high amounts of sphalerite (zinc ore) associated with coal seams, which could cause higher cadmium levels. Therefore, to understand how cadmium affect our body is very important for us to develop the means to prevent cadmium-caused bad effect on our body. It is known that one of the reasons why cadmium exposure damage our body is due to its disturbance of other metals that are need to keep certain level for keeping us healthy. We already know cadmium exposure increases our body copper levels that also cause our tissue cell death. Therefore, we need to know which organ enriches the copper in the body. Therefore, there is an urgent need for tool and technology to non-invasively diagnosis, measure, and monitoring the cadmium exposures across the lifespan for Kentucky residents. The current project utilizes the non-invasive in vivo imaging technology, PET metallomics, to track the dynamic copper homeostasis response to the cadmium exposure in living bodies. The success of this project will provide a non-invasive imaging technology for monitoring the cadmium exposure-altered copper homeostasis in vivo.  Such imaging technology can be translated directly to cadmium-exposed patients by using the clinical PET scanner in Radiology for both diagnosis and therapeutic efficacy monitoring.

Cycle 5- December 2022 IHSFC Research Voucher Awards

New Hypothesis Expansion/Direction Medium IHSFC Research Voucher Award(s):Medium research voucher applications support the expenses (up to $5,000) associated with critical exploratory research and proof-of-concept studies needed by CIEHS members for hypothesis generation and grant (re)submission.

Principal Investigator: Lu Cai, M.D., Ph.D.
Collaborators:J. Christopher States. Ph.D., Ted Smith, Ph.D., Aruni Bhatnagar, Ph.D.; Emory University Collaborators: Doug Walker, Ph.D., Dean Jones, Ph.D.
Title: Wastewater Exposome Screening In Jefferson County
Lay Description: Developing approaches to measure the exposome will provide an avenue toward precision environmental health. This project proposes to use analysis of wastewater samples to provide data on chemical exposome across a defined geographic area. The exposome data can be correlated with health data to gain insight into correlations between specific exposures and disease.


Principal Investigator:Venkatakrishna Jala, Ph.D.
Collaborator:Mayukh Banerjee, Ph.D.
Title: Effect of Arsenic Exposure on Intestines
Lay Description: Arsenic exposure causes significant damage to the gastro-intestinal (GI) system. Here, we identified microbial metabolite Urolithin A potentially protect against arsenic induced GI tissue damage. We propose to identify the potential mechanisms by determining the differential gene expression patterns between treatment group versus control group of mice.

 Cycle 9-December 2022 OEFC Research Voucher Awards

Large OEFC Research Voucher Award(s)(up to 25% total costs capped at a $10,000 maximum): Large research voucher applications will be provided to subsidize already funded EHS research (for example NIEHS).

Principal Investigator:Matthew Cave, M.D.
Collaborator:Timothy O’Toole, Ph.D.
Title: The Metabolic Effects Of Polystyrene Microplastics On The Liver Gene Expression
Lay Description: This voucher will help us to understand how exposure to microplastic pollutants reprograms liver gene expression contributing to obesity and diabetes.


New Hypothesis Expansion/Direction Medium OEFC Research Voucher Award(s): Medium research voucher applications support the expenses (up to $5,000) associated with critical exploratory research and proof-of-concept studies needed by CIEHS members for hypothesis generation and grant (re)submission.

Principal Investigator: Kyung U. Hong, Ph.D.
Co-Investigator: David W. Hein, Ph.D.
Title: Transcriptomic Analysis Of Human Hepatocytes Exposed To Heterocyclic Amines
Lay Description: Cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines are often formed during high temperature cooking of meat. Our study aims to explore, for the first time, a potential and important link between dietary consumption of heterocyclic amines and development of insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that raises the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Studying how these toxic compounds contribute to insulin resistance (and potentially type 2 diabetes) will ultimately help us understand how environmental factors, such as eating cooked meat, contribute to metabolic disease resistance and also devise ways to protect individuals who are susceptible to this condition.