Metals Research Core

Director: Susan Korrick, MD

Our faculty members have conducted research that has been critical to defining public health policy regarding metals, exploring gene-environment interactions with metals, and related in vitro mechanistic studies. A primary goal of the Center is to promote the exploration of the broader exposure landscape in the context of mechanistic and human population studies. Investigators in the Metals Research Core are breaking new ground in this effort.

Highlights: Former Center member, Dr. Baccarelli was at the forefront of using ‘omics approaches, including methylomics and mitochondriomics, to understand complex exposures and health effects. He collaborated with Drs. David Christiani and Joel Schwartz to identify DNA methylomic patterns following exposure to metal-rich fumes among welders, and histone dimethylation and acetylation in response to metal-rich air particles among steel workers. This allowed for cross-fertilization with other Research Cores, leading to the exploration of molecular and mitochondriomic markers as potential mediators of the adverse effects of air particles and lead on cognitive aging. Pursuing such multi-exposure research is central to the goals of the Center. Core members are considering biostatistical approaches to deal with exposure to metal mixtures. Former Metals Core Director and current Director, Dr. Marc Weisskopf, generated pilot data with Center support for a recent R01 submission to investigate early-life exposure to metal mixtures and late-life cognitive function. This led to epidemiology methods research on the analysis of exposure to mixtures and to collaborative work with Metals Research Core member Dr. Quan Lu to explore molecular mechanisms related to multiple metal exposure toxicity in neural stem cells derived from Alzheimer’s patients and controls—work supported by an NIEHS ViCTER supplement. Dr. Weisskopf also co-founded, with ESBC Director Dr. Brent Coull, the Center’s Complex Mixtures working group, which brings together junior and senior investigators to discuss methodological issues in studying exposure mixtures. Dr. Weisskopf has also been developing innovative X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) approaches for the metal analysis in different biological and environmental samples, including portable bone lead analysis, allowing for measurements to be made in the community. These resources will be part of the IHSFC and available to all Center members and through them to the community.

A consistent goal of the Center is the career development of new and junior Center members. The Metals Research Core has had many successes in this area. Dr. Baccarelli, who is now Chair of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University and Director of their NIEHS Core Center.  Former Metals Research Core Director, Dr. Robert Wright, was recruited to Chair the Environmental Medicine and Public Health Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Former Metals Research Core Director, Dr. Marc Weisskopf has been appointed as Center Director for the competing renewal. Core member Dr. Maitreyi Mazumdar built on two Center Pilot Project awards to successfully obtain an Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) award to examine arsenic exposure and neural tube defects in Bangladesh, and R01 funding to explore the relationship between arsenic exposure and cystic fibrosis.