From COVID to zebrafish: exploring new approaches to environmental health research

EaRTH Center Annual Research Forum 
November 2, 2022 
1:30-5:00pm PT 

Do you want to look at environmental health in new ways? Are you trying to fill important data gaps? Want inspiration to ask fresh questions? Join other brilliant scientists, health care professionals, early-stage investigators, and postdocs who are trying to solve research challenges to improve human health at the EaRTH Center’s second annual Research Forum.

From exploring how pollution impacts COVID to what we can learn about chemical contamination from zebrafish, come learn about ground-breaking findings in a speed-dating-like meeting to explore interdisciplinary approaches, generate new ideas, and apply for mini funding awards.

Presenting at this year’s forum on Wednesday, Nov. 2, include:

Robyn Tanguay, PhD (Oregon State University)

Using Multidimensional Zebrafish Data to Protect and Improve Human Health 

We are well into the 21st century and the environmental health sciences discipline remains challenged to systematically identify the legacy, newly created, and chemical mixtures that pose human health risks. Multi-dimensional zebrafish assays provide rapid pathways to discover and compare the bioactivity of chemicals for a multitude of decision-making contexts. This presentation will provide examples where high throughput screening and systems approaches are being used to advance environmental health. 

Rosemarie de la Rosa, PhD, MPH (University of California, Berkeley) – Pilot Project Award

A Geospatial-Temporal Analysis of Adolescent Movement Patterns

Where adolescents spend most of their time has not been characterized in relation to air pollution exposure and utilization of community resources. De la Rosa will present preliminary results from the Mapping Observations in Vulnerable Environments (MOVE) Study that examines movement patterns of adolescents from Richmond and San Pablo to improve the ability to identify areas that need community-level interventions. 

Ethan Brown, MD (UCSF School of Medicine, Weill Institute for Neurosciences) – Mentored Scientist Award 

Risk of Parkinson’s disease after early life and developmental toxicant exposure 

The Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) interviewed pregnant women, their spouses, and their children who were members of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and living in Alameda County between 1959 and 1966 about their health and lifestyles. The study also collected serum samples, and many participants have continued in follow up in the study. Evidence supports a role for environmental exposure in the development of Parkinson’s disease (PD), potentially during early life or development, but no other cohort provides the opportunity to study this relationship directly. For this pilot project, we developed a protocol to identify people with PD in CHDS and tested it in select participants. 

Aras Mattis, MD, PhD (UCSF School of Medicine, Pathology) – Pilot Project Award 

Environmental Chemicals and Liver Development

Developing a novel in vitro assay to detect environmental chemicals that lead to downstream changes in cellular health in humans. 

Kaveh Ashrafi, PhD (UCSF School of Medicine, Physiology) – EaRTH Seedling Award

Identification of environmentally pervasive chemicals that may elicit detrimental effects on learning and memory

Using C. elegans to understand fundamental mechanisms of learning and memory, we are exploring the kynurenine pathway as it is associated with human neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. Leveraging the tools and assays developed in C. elegans, we are searching for environmentally pervasive chemicals that might harm learning and memory.  

Helena Archer, MPH (PhD Student, Epidemiology, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health) – EaRTH Seedling Award 

COVID-19 Outcomes Among People Exposed to Oil and Gas Production in California 

Oil and gas production activities are a significant and underexamined source of pollution, including NO2 and PM2.5, and have been linked to respiratory and immunologic disease. In our study, we leveraged high-resolution data to examine whether localized production from oil and gas wells was associated with community-level incidence of COVID-19 incidence and mortality in the first year of the pandemic.

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