The preterm birth rate in Harris County, Houston, TX is an alarming 13.6% (national average in US is 9.6%), and in areas surrounding the superfund sites, the preterm birth (PTB) rate is even higher (> 20%). There are 15 superfund sites in Harris County, posing a significant health risk to people living in the vicinity of these sites. Preterm birth (PTB) often leads to many complications including chronic lung disease, also termed bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD), and some of these patients develop neurocognitive deficits later in life. One of the possible risk factors for PTBs are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), present in contaminated soil, sediments, and water at various superfund sites across the US, including the greater Houston area. The over-arching hypothesis of the BCM-Rice SRP is that maternal exposure to PAHs, which are present in superfund sites, increases the risk of PTBs and incrementally augments major morbidities such as BPD and neurocognitive deficits.
The Specific Aims of the overall center are: 1. To develop ultrasensitive detection and identification strategies (e.g., surface- enhanced Raman Spectra (SERA) and surface-enhanced Infrared Absorption spectroscopy (SEIRA) for primary and secondary PAH-based compounds in air, water, and soil based on optically active engineered nanomaterials (project 1). This method is highly innovative and because it can detect PAHs at 1 ppb levels, it will be very helpful for risk assessment. 2. To determine molecular mechanisms by which maternal exposure to PAH mixtures increases the risks for PTBs, which in turn leads to BPD and neurocognitive deficits. 3. To develop novel remediation technologies to treat sediments from Superfund sites in a manner that completely removes the health risks while adding value to the impacted media. This research should help in risk assessment. 4. To develop novel strategies to prevent and reduce the health burden associated with PAHs present in superfund sites (e.g., Patrick Bayou, San Jacinto waste Pitts) through our Community Engagement Core (CEC). 5. To develop partnerships with primary stakeholders (i.e. EPA, ATSDR), NIEHS, investigators within the center and other centers, to explore commercialization possibilities through the Administrative and Research Translational Core (AC). 6. Train students and postdoctoral fellows in a cross-disciplinary manner, so next generation scientists, engineers, and physicians will make fundamental contributions to Environmental Health [Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC)]. 7. To support the management and integration of assets across all the projects and cores of the center [data management and Analysis core (DMAC)]. The biomedical and environmental Science projects are well integrated, and they will be supported by the AC, the research support core (RSC), and the DMAC. The overall goal to reduce the health burden associated with PAHs in superfund sites.
The preterm birth rate in Harris County, Houston, TX is an alarming 13.6% (national average in US is 9.6%), and in areas surrounding the superfund sites, the preterm birth (PTB) rate is even higher (> 20%). The overarching goal of the Baylor-Rice Superfund Research Program (SRP) is to that maternal exposure to PAHs, which are present in superfund sites, increases the risk of PTBs and incrementally augments major morbidities such as chronic lung disease [bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD] in premature infants and neurocognitive deficits later in life. These studies proposed here should lead to reduction of health burden associated with PAHs in Superfund sites, and should also help in risk assessment strategies by partnering with EPA, ARSDR, Texas department of Health, etc.