The scientific theme for the Superfund Research Center at Boston University is receptor-based toxic effects of Superfund chemicals on development and reproduction in humans and wildlife. The chemicals under study are organic compounds of special interest to the SRP Center mandate that initiate their toxic actions by interacting with specific molecules inside cells called receptors. This interaction sets in motion chain of events that often leads to production of new proteins that alter the development of the cells. The research ranges from basic laboratory investigations to large scale epidemiologic studies of populations exposed through drinking water or around a Superfund site or molecular studies of fish ecology in a contaminated harbor. The object is to gain a better understanding of the implications of disturbances of reproductive and developmental processes, including aging, from exposures to hazardous substances in the environment. A special feature is a coordinated set of parallel projects examining molecular and population effects of developmental toxins in the standard laboratory zebra fish model and a widespread environmental sentinel, the killifish. Epidemiological studies of developmental outcomes from exposure to the high-prevalence Superfund chemicals perchloroethylene (PCE, tetrachloroethene), PCBs, the pesticide methoxychlor, phthalate, organotins and metals target knowledge gaps identified as special research needs by EPA/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). A major feature is development of novel methods to address some of the most difficult problems associated with the typical hazardous waste epidemiological and toxicological datasets, temporal spatial distribution and interaction in mixtures. A Research Support Core provides expertise for highly sophisticated data analysis of Next Generation Sequencing and computer modeling of molecular structures, techniques used by five of the seven research projects. The Center includes two Core facilities dedicated to translating research for use in risk assessment by state and federal agencies and engaging the public and local health authorities in framing and shaping the scientific research agenda.
US EPA and other regulatory agencies within the Federal system have a special interest in the possible reproductive and developmental effects of hazardous substances, including, but not limited to, those caused by endocrine disrupting agents. Despite increasingly sophisticated research, there is still much to learn about the seriousness of the problem.
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