The overarching goal of the UW Superfund Research Program is to understand the mechanisms of metal neurotoxicity in the context of disease susceptibility in humans and aquatic organisms.
1. Develop Biomarkers
In the Superfund Research Program, we aim to develop biological markers to assess exposure to nervous system toxicants and susceptibility to disease. Biomarkers are abnormal levels or activity of substances found in living tissue that indicate exposure to toxicants and susceptibility to disease. We study certain enzymes and chemical compounds to determine their usefulness as biomarkers of toxic exposure. Our focus is on links between enzyme levels, chemical exposure and genetic predisposition to toxic effects of metals and other chemicals.
2. Assess Physiological Damage in Humans and Wildlife
We investigate the complex interplay between low-level toxic exposure and disease, genetic susceptibility factors and models for risk assessment. Our studies seek to generate new scientific and health knowledge, and create risk assessments and a framework for including wildlife assessments in waste site evaluations and remediation decision-making.
3. Develop New Technology to Remediate Contaminated Sites
We conduct research on biomarkers and physiological damage associated with toxic exposure to support the development of new technology to remediate contaminated sites. Technological research works to develop a repertoire of plants that remediate toxic solvent spills, broaden the range of compounds detoxified by plants, and further the knowledge of microbial processes and their use in neutralizing contaminants.
4. Research Translation
Our Research Translation (RTC) and Community Engagement Cores (CEC) work to facilitate communication of research findings from the program to our stakeholders using bi-directional communication strategies. Our partners include local communities impacted by hazardous waste sites and federal, state and local government agencies that are involved in waste site cleanup. Our translation activities are available on our Informational Materials page.
Our program is comprised of four research projects: two biomedical projects and two environmental science projects that focus on characterizing the mechanisms, dose-response relationships, and genetic modifiers of central and peripheral nervous system toxicity associated with metal exposures.
The projects are supported by five support cores: administration, research translation, community engagement, functional genomics and bioinformatics laboratory, and training (see UW SRP organization chart above). The program is an interdisciplinary team of faculty and graduate students from the University Of Washington departments of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Genome Sciences, Biostatistics, Environmental Chemistry, Civil Engineering, and Biochemistry.
The UW SRP program has been funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) since its inception in 1987. The NIEHS Superfund Research Program (SRP) funds university-based multidisciplinary research on human health and environmental issues related to hazardous substances. The central goal is to understand and break the link between chemical exposure and disease via the development, testing, and implementation of unique, solution-oriented approaches to complex environmental health problems. They are improving the understanding of environmental contaminants, which may lead to lower environmental cleanup costs, reduced risk of exposure, and improvements in human health.