Under the leadership of Dr. Marc Weisskopf, PhD, ScD, a neurobiologist and epidemiologist, the Metals Core brings together investigators from a variety of disciplines to address the health effects of metals across the lifespan. We focus not only on metal toxicity, but also on susceptibility to metals. This is a critical concept to lifespan epidemiology, as age itself likely alters susceptibility to metals. In addition to asking the logical questions, “Is a metal toxic and if so, at what dose?” we dig deeper to ask perhaps the more critical question, “What factors increase or decrease that toxicity?” The first question can be viewed as an initial stage of research development, the second as the integration of metal exposure into the field of complex disease epidemiology. It is through answers to these inquiries that we can translate environmental health research into public health policy and clinical practice.
While much of our work is on genetic susceptibility to metals, we also address the impacts of social context and nutrition as susceptibility factors. Current investigations focus primarily on non-cancer endpoints with a particular emphasis on neurologic phenotypes. These include initiatives to study the benefits and risks of fish consumption, the role of the social environment in modifying chemical toxicity in humans, the role of nutritional supplements in mitigating the toxicity of metals, and epigenetic biomarkers of metal exposure – work that has been critical to defining public health policy regarding metals.
Our program in metals research spans basic, population and clinical sciences. We welcome investigators and trainees of diverse backgrounds to participate in our activities, to enhance the cross-fertilization of ideas and bring new perspectives to the study of metal related health effects.