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December 2020 eBulletin.

Below are a few snapshots of recent University of Washington Superfund Research Program (UW SRP) accomplishments. 

Drs. Zhengui Xia and Hao Wang pose together after Wang's PhD defense

Cadmium exposure disrupts the formation of new neurons in a part of the brain responsible for learning and memory

To date, research into the development of Alzheimer's Disease has focused primarily on genetics. Less attention has been given to the role of environmental exposures. However, research from UW SRP Project 2, carried out in the lab of Zhengui Xia, suggested that exposures to contaminants are also relevant, and, surprisingly, that cadmium may play an important role.
            Cadmium is a heavy metal with industrial applications that is known to cause diseases of the kidney, liver, and bone, as well as cancer. For average Americans, the most common route of exposure to cadmium is through smoking or food. Over the last couple of decades, research has accumulated suggesting that cadmium may also play a role as a neurotoxicant, even at low levels similar to those seen in the average, non-smoking U.S. population.  
            Recently, researchers in Xia's lab have used a mouse model to demonstrate that exposure to relatively low levels of cadmium in adulthood impairs olfaction, learning and memory, and the formation of new neurons (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning and the formation of memory, and in the olfactory bulb, a part of the brain important for olfaction. These results have important implications for the role of environmental exposures in the development of Alzheimer's Disease.
            Now two new papers by Dr. Hao Wang, a post-doctoral trainee in the lab of Zhengui Xia, show that some of these adverse effects can be counteracted by stimulating neurogenesis in the adult brain. These results provide important evidence that the olfactory and cognitive deficits found previously after exposure to cadmium are indeed caused, at least in part, by disruptions to the formation and maturation of new neurons in the brain.
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UW SRP co-hosts webinar on lead

On October 13th, the UW SRP and the Northwest Toxic Communities Coalition hosted a webinar on lead contamination at Idaho's Bunker Hill Superfund Site. Panelists included Dr. Steve Gilbert of UW, Rhonda Kaetzel of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry, and Barbara Miller of the Silver Valley Community Resource Center. They spoke about the dangers of childhood lead exposure, how to test your garden for lead, and efforts to establish a community lead health clinic in the Silver Valley. Watch the webinar here.

Welcome Emily Patridge- our new administrator

Emily Patridge had her first day of work with the UW SRP on October 5, 2020. She joins us from the UW Health Sciences Library where she served as the Assistant Director of Clinical Research and Data Services for the last four years. Patridge is not new to environmental and public health. The UW Health Sciences Library serves all six health science schools including the School of Public Health and she assisted researchers with requests that focused on translational sciences and public health research. Read more about Patridge here

CEC Manager Helps Rename Six Parks

For decades, public spaces along Seattle's Duwamish River have had names with numerical subjects that align with its identity as an industrialized and polluted Superfund Site, but ignore its spiritual significance to the Salish peoples and downplay the vision of clean-up and ecological restoration. Now six of the parks have new names, in part thanks to the work of our Community Engagement Manager, BJ Cummings. Read more here.

UW SRP trainees present at PANWAT

On November 9th, UW SRP trainees Hao Wang and Megumi Matsushita presented at the Pacific Northwest Association of Toxicologists (PANWAT) regional meeting. Wang won a second-place postdoctoral presentation award for his talk. Wang and Matsushita are both trainees on UW SRP Project 2, studying the mechanisms by which exposure to cadmium impairs cognition and olfaction in mouse models. Read more here.

Protecting people from chemical exposure

In December, most of Washington's coast was closed to Dungeness crab fishing due to high levels of domoic acid in ocean waters. Domoic acid is a neurotoxin produced by a marine algae that can accumulate in shellfish and other marine organisms. Director of Community Engagement and Research Translation Tom Burbacher has studied domoic acid for years, looking at the effects of low levels of domoic acid on pregnant mothers and their offspring using a non-human primate model. His results suggest that current regulations may not be sufficiently protective for sensitive populations. Read more.

Using fishing videos for engagement

The community-based organization Juntos Podemos Ciudar Nuestro Rio Duwamish recently used a multi-lingual series of videos co-created by the UW SRP, Duwamish Community Health Advocates, Public Health-Seattle & King County, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to educate local fishers about how to safely catch and prepare salmon from the Duwamish River. Because salmon spend only part of their lives in the river, they are less contaminated than other species and are the safest fish to eat from the Duwamish. Read more.

Developing a Rapid COVID-19 Diagnosis

Dr. Clement Furlong, a principal investigator on Project 3, Dr. Jae Chung, a professor in Mechanical Engineering, and colleagues recently received a $217,000 grant to develop a protocol for rapid screening of COVID-19. The new diagnostic technique is expected to have 95% sensitivity and specificity and to take only minutes to provide results, at a cost of $10 per individual sampled. Read more.

We want to hear from you!

We would love to hear from you! If you have feedback related to our work or are interested in a potential partnership don't hesitate to contact UW SRP Director, Dr. Evan Gallagher; Director of the Research Translation and Community Engagement Cores, Dr. Tom Burbacher; Research Translation Manager, Lisa Hayward; or Community Engagement Manager, BJ Cummings.

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