UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
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EPA Grants $800K to study impact of chemical exposures

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Professor Pamela Lein studies the impact of chemical exposures on the brain.

March 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded $800,000 to scientists in Professor Pamela Lein’s laboratory as part of $3 million in grants to research institutions to better understand how chemicals interact with biological processes and how these interactions may lead to altered brain development. The studies are focused on improving EPA’s ability to predict the potential health effects of chemical exposures.

Lein – a developmental neurobiologist and neurotoxicologist in the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine –explains that this particular project will seek to identify adverse outcome pathways (AOPs) for chemicals that cause developmental neurotoxicity by interfering with thyroid hormone signaling. An AOP is a model which predicts the connection between exposures and the chain of events that lead to an unwanted health effect. 

“These studies will significantly advance basic neuroscience and identify key events linking chemical exposures to adverse developmental neurotoxicity via endocrine disruption,” Lein said. “Additionally, these studies will provide data indicating how well laboratory models predict developmental neurotoxicity in humans, which will be critical in developing testing for the tens of thousands of chemicals for which there are currently no developmental neurotoxicity data.” 

Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development said in a press release that this research will transform our understanding of how exposure to chemicals during sensitive life stages affects the development of the brain.

“By better predicting whether chemicals have the potential to impact health and human development, these grants will not only advance the science necessary to improve chemical safety but protect the well-being and futures of children in this nation,” he said. 

This improved understanding supports the EPA’s mission of protecting human health and the environment and amplifies the impact of its chemical safety research efforts. EPA’s chemical safety research is accelerating the pace of chemical screening, helping to protect vulnerable populations and species, developing solutions for more sustainable chemicals and using computational science to understand the relationship between chemical exposures and health outcomes.

UC Davis researchers will collaborate with the Leibniz Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Dusseldorf, Germany. Other recipients of EPA’s funding for developmental neurotoxicity adverse outcome pathway research include: North Carolina State University, The University of Georgia, and Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute.  

For more information about these awards visit: http://epa.gov/ncer/adversepath 

For more information on EPA’s National Research Program on Chemical Safety, visit: http://www.epa.gov/research/chemicalscience/