NIH taps U researchers to study environmental effects on kids’ health

The National Institutes of Health is tapping University of Minnesota experts to better assess the impact of environmental exposures on children’s health and development.

The Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) has three primary goals: to develop new tools to enhance research on how the environment affects disease in children, to take a closer look at exposures during in utero development and at their impact on future conditions, and to foster collaboration and enhance this area of study.

Masonic Cancer Center members Stephen Hecht, Ph.D., and Lisa Peterson, Ph.D., are leading the U’s $5.1 million portion of the study, which is focused on providing wider access to laboratory data and analyses and expanding collaborations.

Hecht, Wallin Land Grant Professor of Cancer Prevention, studies the ways carcinogens in tobacco products and the human environment modify DNA or activate metabolic changes and how to apply this knowledge to prevent cancer. Peterson investigates the mechanisms by which chemicals initiate cancer formation.

Environmental exposures are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for mothers and children worldwide. Numerous factors — from air pollution, pesticides, and infectious diseases, to education, stress, and neglect — can play a role. 

Exposures during crucial developmental windows, including conception and pregnancy, early childhood, and puberty, can have long-lasting effects.  

Published on April 5, 2016