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NIH: $8 Million to Penn Medicine’s
Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology
July 13, 2010, Volume 57, No. 01

The National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has renewed its funding to the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET).

The new grant totals over $8.3 million and extends CEET’s mandate through March 2015. CEET was established in 2004 with a four-year, $4.1 million grant from NIEHS to study the effects of environmental pollutants on human health.

CEET represents a partnership between research scientists and communities in southeastern Pennsylvania to improve environmental health and medicine in the region. Its mission is to understand the mechanism by which environmental exposures lead to disease. Understanding these processes can lead to early diagnosis, intervention, and prevention strategies. The Penn CEET is one of only 17 designated Environmental Health Science Core Centers in the United States and the first in Pennsylvania.

“CEET is now fully funded to extend studies on how environmental agents, including cigarette smoke, ozone, endocrine disrupting chemicals, and carcinogens cause disease, and to translate these findings to improve environmental health. Its goal is to accomplish this through personalized approaches including the predictive power of genotyping and biomarkers of exposure and response,” said CEET director Trevor Penning, professor of pharmacology, biochemistry & biophysics and obstetrics/gynecology.

In the initial four years of funding the CEET has made several major accomplishments towards its mission:

• Identified a panel of biomarkers that can determine individual exposure and adverse response to cigarette smoke.

• Identified novel lipid mediators of ozone-exacerbated asthma.

• Shown that carcinogens present in tobacco smoke cause oxidative damage of DNA, leading to mutation of tumor-suppressor genes.

• Initiated a multi-site consortium to study gene-environment interactions in lung cancer.

• Identified individual genetic variation responsible for low-folate, high- homocysteine levels that has been linked to neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

• Won the prestigious Annual Community-Campus Partnerships for Health Award for its Community-Based Participatory research on exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical perfluoroctanoate, which led to the replacement of contaminated water in the Little-Hocking Water district in Ohio.

•Established the TREES (Teen Research in  and Education in Environmental Science) program for high school student interns.


Almanac - July 13, 2010, Volume 57, No. 01