$17.2 Million Environmental Grant
Awarded To School Of Medicine
environmental research and community outreach program led by
the UCSD School of Medicine has received a five-year $17.2 million
renewal of its grant from the National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences, along with accolades for high quality scientific
investigations and an outstanding community outreach program.
First funded with $15
million in 2000, the UCSD Superfund Basic Research Program has
successfully developed cellular, yeast, plant and animal biological
tools that could potentially be used in the detection of toxic
substances in waterborne hazardous waste. Continuing studies
during the next five years will refine the use of these detection
tools and will include a community outreach component with cross-border
populations and with local tribal communities who are affected
by hazardous waste sites and toxicants.
that toxic exposure leads to illness,” said Robert Tukey,
a UCSD professor of pharmacology, chemistry and biochemistry,
and director of the UCSD Superfund Basic Research Program. “The
objective of our studies is to find out from a biological standpoint,
what genetic components lead to disease, and then to utilize
biological models to detect harmful toxic components in water.”
In San Diego, the UCSD
School of Medicine coordinates the research efforts of UCSD
scientists from multiple departments, including the medical
and pharmacy schools, the departments of Biology, Chemistry
& Biochemistry, Urban Studies and Planning, and The Scripps
Institution of Oceanography, plus projects directed by collaborators
at the Salk Institute and The Scripps Research Institute.
Just a few examples
of work by participating researchers in the program are the
- Director Robert
Tukey, has developed cell lines and mice that can be used
as sensors to detect exposure to environmental contaminants.
- UCSD biologist
Julian Schroeder, has developed a strain of plants that can
absorb metals out of the soil.
- Pharmacology professor
Michael Karin, has developed mice that are sensitive in detecting
certain toxicants that cause liver cancer.
- Professor Palmer
Taylor, who is also dean of the UCSD Skaggs School of Pharmacy
and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has generated a strain of mice
sensitive to enzymes important in nerve transmission in muscles;
these enzymes are damaged by contaminated run-off water in
- Paul Russell, at
The Scripps Research Institute, is studying oxidative stress
in yeast as a model that could potentially be a biological
screen for toxicants.
- Ronald Evans, the
Salk Institute, studies the molecular mechanism by which environmental
substances found at hazardous waste sites can activate nuclear
receptors and genes that ultimately lead to toxic responses.
- Professor Bradley
M. Tebo, from UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography,
has identified novel bacteria that resist toxic levels, and
which are useful in evaluating the fate of various toxic substances
in our coastal environments.
An equally important
component of the Superfund grant is the community outreach program,
working closely with local American Indian communities, and
led by Keith Pezzoli, UCSD Urban Studies and Community Planning.
“As a research
institute, we will use these funds to further an understanding
of the impact of waterborne toxicants on health, but we are
also responsible as an institution of higher education to apply
what we can learn through research to help those impacted by
environmental exposure,” Tukey said.
The community outreach
program will collaborate locally with the Campo Indian Reservation,
part of the Kumeyaay Nation; the tribal environmental lab located
at the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians, and nationally,
the Superfund Project Group of the National Tribal Environmental
Council. The goal is to create a tribal information system with
datasets, information and knowledge integration tools to support
online analysis, visualization and communication of environmental
justice and quality of life issues. Research translation activities
will apply toxicogenomics and biomolecular technologies to environmental
monitoring, risk assessment and bioremediation.
For more information
about the Superfund research projects, see the UCSD
Superfund Basic Research Program.
Sue Pondrom (619) 543-6163