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Erin Madeen, Project 1 Trainee

Congratulations to Erin Madeen from Project 1, the first recipient of a Trainee-Initiated Collaboration (TrIC) grant.

Erin will receive $2500 for travel and lodging to work with Ulrike Luderer MD, PhD, a Reproductive Toxicologist and expert in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) Benzo(a)pyrene (BaP) induced female infertility at UC Irvine.

Dr. Luderer will train Erin on methods to histologically analyze ovaries and testes from mice treated prenatally with the PAH, dibenzo[def,p]chrysene (DBC), in a Project 1 study. This unique training opportunity will help further research exploring how exposure of pregnant mothers to PAHs induces reproductive effects in their offspring.

This area of research is valuable as several individual PAHs are well documented to cause reproductive effects that include abnormal morphology, reduced fertility, infertility, and cancers. DBC has not previously been studied as a reproductive toxicant.

A comparison of BaP and DBC reproductive effects could be useful for risk assessors and modelers as PAHs occur in dynamic mixtures.

This is an exciting new collaboration with the Luderer Lab.

OSU Press Release:  http://bit.ly/1sjfefn

MEDIA CONTACT:  David Stauth, 541-737-0787

David Williams, 541-737-3277 or david.williams@oregonstate.edu

12/10/2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Researchers for the first time have developed a method to track through the human body the movement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, as extraordinarily tiny amounts of these potential carcinogens are biologically processed and eliminated.

PAHs, which are the product of the incomplete combustion of carbon, have been a part of everyday human life since cave dwellers first roasted meat on an open fire. More sophisticated forms of exposure now range from smoked cheese to automobile air pollution, cigarettes, a ham sandwich and public drinking water. PAHs are part of the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink.

However, these same compounds have gained increasing interest and scientific study in recent years due to their role as carcinogens. PAHs or PAH mixtures have been named as three of the top 10 chemicals of concern by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry.

With this new technology, scientists have an opportunity to study, in a way never before possible, potential cancer-causing compounds as they move through the human body. The findings were just published by researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions in Chemical Research in Toxicology, in work supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)

The pioneering work has been the focus of Ph.D. research by Erin Madeen at Oregon State, whose studies were supported in part by an award from the Superfund Research Program at NIEHS for her work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“We’ve proven that this technology will work, and it’s going to change the way we’re able to study carcinogenic PAHs,” said David Williams, director of the Superfund Research Program at OSU, a professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and principal investigator with the Linus Pauling Institute.

“Almost everything we know so far about PAH toxicity is based on giving animals high doses of the compounds and then seeing what happens,” Williams said. “No one before this has ever been able to study these probable carcinogens at normal dietary levels and then see how they move through the body and are changed by various biological processes.”

The technology allowing this to happen is a new application of accelerator mass spectrometry, which as a biological tracking tool is extraordinarily more sensitive than something like radioactivity measuring. Scientists can measure PAH levels in blood down to infinitesimal ratios – comparable to a single drop of water in 4,000 Olympic swimming pools, or to a one-inch increment on a 3-billion mile measuring tape.

As a result, microdoses of a compound, even less than one might find in a normal diet or environmental exposure, can be traced as they are processed by humans. The implications are profound.

“Knowing how people metabolize PAHs may verify a number of animal and cell studies, as well as provide a better understanding of how PAHs work, identifying their mechanism or mechanisms of action,” said Bill Suk, director of the NIEHS Superfund Research Program.

One PAH compound studied in this research, dibenzo (def,p)-chrysene, is fairly potent and defined as a probable human carcinogen. It was administered to volunteers in the study in a capsule equivalent to the level of PAH found in a 5-ounce serving of smoked meat, which provided about 28 percent of the average daily dietary PAH intake. There was a fairly rapid takeup of the compound, reaching a peak metabolic level within about two hours, and then rapid elimination. The researchers were able to study not only the parent compound but also individual metabolites as it was changed.

“Part of what’s so interesting is that we’re able to administer possible carcinogens to people in scientific research and then study the results,” Williams said. “By conventional scientific ethics, that simply would not be allowed. But from a different perspective, we’re not giving these people toxins, we’re giving them dinner. That’s how much PAHs are a part of our everyday lives, and for once we’re able to study these compounds at normal levels of human exposure.”

What a scientist might see as a carcinogen, in other words, is what most of us would see as a nice grilled steak. There are many unexpected forms of PAH exposure. The compounds are found in polluted air, cigarettes, and smoked food, of course, but also in cereal grains, potatoes and at surprisingly high levels in leafy green vegetables.

“It’s clear from our research that PAHs can be toxic, but it’s also clear that there’s more to the equation than just the source of the PAH,” Williams said. “We get most of the more toxic PAHs from our food, rather than inhalation. And some fairly high doses can come from foods like leafy vegetables that we know to be healthy. That’s why we need a better understanding of what’s going on in the human body as these compounds are processed.”

The Williams-led OSU laboratory is recruiting volunteers for a follow-up study that will also employ smoked salmon as a source of a PAH mixture and relate results to an individual’s genetic makeup.

Some of the early findings from the study actually back up previous research fairly well, Williams said, which was done with high-dose studies in laboratory animals. It’s possible, he said, that exposure to dietary PAHs over a lifetime may turn out to be less of a health risk that previously believed at normal levels of exposure, but more work will need to be done with this technology before such conclusions could be reached.

Collaborators on the study were from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and the OSU Environmental Health Sciences Center.

“Further development and application of this technology could have a major impact in the arena of human environmental health,” the researchers wrote in their conclusion.

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Blair with clam
Blair Paulik out in the field with the butter clams.

The Samish Indian Nation invited Blair Paulik (OSU SRP Project 4 Trainee) and Diana Rohlman (OSU SRP CEC Coordinator) to the 3rd annual Fidalgo Bay Science Conference on October 23, 2014.

Our SRP presented a poster highlighting the recent butter clam sampling performed with the Samish and Swinomish tribal communities. In addition, governmental agencies, university researchers, citizen scientists and Tribal scientists presented on restoration projects (Custom Plywood Mill), the surf smelt spawning study (Salish Sea Stewards) and the Samish Natural Resources Program projects (Current Projects).

Two Samish Tribal members opened the Fidalgo Bay Science Conference floor with song and traditional stories to explain the importance of a healthy environment.

Tribal events such as this give our SRP Trainees valuable professional development experiences, exposing them to the history and culture of our Tribal partners and ways to work successfully with them.

 

Poster Presentation:

Paulik LB, Rohlman D, Donatuto J, Woodward C, Kile M, Anderson KA, Harding A. Improving techniques for estimating butter clam (Saxidomus gigantean) contamination in the Salish Sea. Poster presented at: Fidalgo Bay Science Conference, hosted by the Samish Indian Nation; 2014 October 23; Anacortes, WA.

Butter Clam Sampling Process
Butter Clam Sampling Process

See the story “Tribes partner with OSU to study clam contamination” on the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission web site.

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Jill Schrlau, Trainee with Project 5

Jill Schrlau has been working as a Research Assistant since June 2009 in the lab of Dr. Staci Massey Simonich. She is now going back to school to be able to change careers from analytical chemistry to environmental engineering with a specific interest in remediation.

Jill  has two Bachelor degrees under her belt, and will soon have two Master’s degree.

BS in Chemistry from Florida International University (2004)
BS in Environmental Studies from Florida International University (2004)
MS in Chemistry from Oregon State University (2007)

Jill’s current MS research is on the degradation of PAHs in contaminated soil using four different cultures of aerobic microbial cultures.

Identification of degradation production products and their potential toxicity compared to the parent PAHs will fill knowledge gaps in the field of bioremediation of PAHs.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Staci Massey Simonich in the Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology and Dr. Lewis Semprini in the Department of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University.

Besides science, Jill enjoys gardening, ballroom/swing dancing, and traveling.