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NIEHS Funds Children's Epigenomics Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency have awarded $16.5 million to the University of California, Berkeley, to use epigenetics and other approaches to study environmental influences on child health.

Funded as part of a new $54 million investment in the 10-year old Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Research program, the Berkeley efforts will include the creation of three centers to advance and support these studies.

Berkeley will use one $7.5 million grant to fund the Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health, which will conduct a longitudinal study of low-income immigrant women and their children aimed at understanding the health impact of exposures to agricultural pesticides. The research specifically will investigate the effects of exposure to these chemicals on the epigenome and its relationship with pubertal onset.

Another $7.5 million grant will support the Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment, which will study the effects in utero and in early life of exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals present in homes. These studies will investigate how these chemicals interact with genetic and epigenetic factors involved in childhood leukemia.

A $1.5 million grant will fund the Center for Environmental Public Health, a new center that will study the effects in the womb and in childhood to exposures to ambient air pollutants in California's Central Valley, which has high levels of air pollution.

"This research will address the environmental health risks of some of the state's most vulnerable populations, and the knowledge gained will lead to new polices and practices that will help mitigate these risks," Stephen Shortell, dean of Berkeley's School of Public Health said in a statement.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the NIEHS National Toxicology Program, added in a statement that the "interdisciplinary nature of the centers allows them to work closely with their communities to develop effective intervention strategies for at-risk populations."