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News Article | April 20, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

When the kidneys - vital organs for filtering the body's entire blood supply - become injured, it can set in motion an unfortunate chain of events that leads to a decline in health. Sometimes, in response to chronic injury, the body begins an aberrant repair process known as fibrosis, in which normal fibroblast cells transform into myofibroblasts, proliferate out of control, migrate and form scar tissue. Once scar tissue begins to form, functional cells begin to die, and the scar tissue multiplies. Investigators have been looking for a way to break this cycle, and new findings indicate that a gene known as SMOC2 may point the way to a new intervention that could prevent this cascade of events. Previous studies by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital had identified SMOC2 as a protein that was highly upregulated in the kidneys of mice with fibrosis. In a new study published in JCI Insights, investigators report that increasing SMOC2 in the kidney helped initiate and continue the progression of kidney fibrosis, while tamping down SMOC2 prevented it. To test this, researchers overexpressed SMOC2 in a mouse model of kidney fibrosis and performed RNA sequencing to investigate the mechanisms responsible for fibrotic development. They found that SMOC2 activated a fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition (FMT). The team then used two approaches to "silence" SMOC2 - a genetic approach, by using SMOC2 knockout mice, and a pharmacologic approach, by administering SMOC2 siRNA. Using these approaches, researchers were successful in tamping down the protein's production, which protected against fibrosis development. Corresponding author Vishal Vaidya, PhD, of BWH's Renal Division, notes that one of the exciting things about SMOC2 is that it can be detected in a patient's urine. Now that a functional connection between the protein and kidney fibrosis is becoming clearer, SMOC2 is looking like an increasingly useful biomarker for detecting fibrosis. In addition, SMOC2 may be a promising therapeutic target for an unmet medical need. "We want to be able to intervene before the tissue becomes severely fibrotic to the point of no return. Our investigation indicates that SMOC2 could be a key to protecting against kidney fibrosis initiation and progression," said Vaidya. This work was made possible through funding by the Partners Innovation Discovery Grant, Outstanding New Environmental Sciences, Innovation in Regulatory Science Award from Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Harvard Catalyst, the National Institutes of the Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Harvard Medical School Laboratory of Excellence in Systems Pharmacology and the Giovanni Armenise-Harvard Foundation.


News Article | May 2, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

WASHINGTON (May 2, 2017) - Some scientific reports have a profound impact on government policy. Sometimes, however, there are significant shortcomings in the research - yet the policy impact continues. Critically analyzing scientific research that underlies regulatory decision making and generating new information to ensure decisions are based on sound science are crucial. A recent analysis by Checkoway et al. has been awarded the Kammer Merit in Authorship Award for its review of the data from a critical epidemiological study used by scientific agencies to assess health risk from formaldehyde exposure. The findings from Checkoway et al call into question the original study's conclusions; the analysis further demonstrates the importance of data availability, research reproducibility and adherence to study design when drawing scientific conclusions. The Kammer Merit in Authorship Award recognizes an outstanding scientific contribution published in the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM's) Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) during a given year. The winning paper, titled Formaldehyde Exposure and Mortality Risks from Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Other Lymphohematopoietic Malignancies in the US National Cancer Institute Cohort Study of Workers in Formaldehyde Industries, concluded that there is no epidemiological evidence from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) cohort supporting an association between formaldehyde exposure and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). The award was announced late last week. "The findings from this analysis do not support a finding that formaldehyde exposure is a cause of leukemia," said Harvey Checkoway, Ph.D., lead author of the reanalysis and Professor of Family Medicine & Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. "This reanalysis identifies how critical data interpretation is, given that the risk assessments that rely on these analyses ultimately set occupational and environmental exposure standards." Checkoway and his colleagues performed analyses of raw data in an attempt to replicate findings reported from a NCI cohort mortality study of workers from 10 US plants producing or using formaldehyde. The NCI study has been influential in the classification of formaldehyde as a human leukemogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) National Toxicology Program (NTP). In the original analysis NCI investigators defined "peak" exposure to formaldehyde on a relative basis with respect to individual workers' exposures histories. This complicates data interpretations. Using this definition, analyses of updated mortality data for the NCI cohort reported tentative associations of "peak" exposures with myeloid leukemia (ML) and Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) that are inconsistent with other studies. The new research found no association between acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and cumulative, average or frequency of "peak" exposures. This became clear in the new analysis where AML and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) were evaluated separately, as two types of leukemia are different diseases and have different risk factors. The award-winning Checkoway et al. study conducted more comprehensive analyses of associations of specific lymphohematopoietic malignancies (LHM), especially AML, with peak exposure, using a standard definition of peak exposure. Peak was defined in terms of absolute exposure dose and duration, which permitted direct comparisons among similar studies, strengthening the analysis. Checkoway et al. concluded that no clear associations for peak or cumulative formaldehyde exposures were observed in this cohort for any of the specific LHM, including AML The result of this analysis adds to the weight of evidence that formaldehyde exposure in the workplace does not cause AML, the LHM of greatest concern. It also underscores the need to ensure new information is effectively considered and incorporated into chemical assessments by IARC, NTP and other agencies. "Having this work recognized by ACOEM as a significant contribution in occupational medicine shows how important these findings are to understanding and interpreting the formaldehyde science," said Kimberly White, Ph.D., Senior Director of the American Chemistry Council Formaldehyde Panel. To learn more, view this fact sheet or visit americanchemistry.com/formaldehyde. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $797 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is the nation's largest exporter, accounting for fourteen percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation's critical infrastructure.


News Article | May 2, 2017
Site: www.prnewswire.com

"The findings from this analysis do not support a finding that formaldehyde exposure is a cause of leukemia," said Harvey Checkoway, Ph.D., lead author of the reanalysis and Professor of Family Medicine & Public Health at the University of California, San Diego. "This reanalysis identifies how critical data interpretation is, given that the risk assessments that rely on these analyses ultimately set occupational and environmental exposure standards." Checkoway and his colleagues performed analyses of raw data in an attempt to replicate findings reported from a NCI cohort mortality study of workers from 10 US plants producing or using formaldehyde. The NCI study has been influential in the classification of formaldehyde as a human leukemogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) National Toxicology Program (NTP). In the original analysis NCI investigators defined "peak" exposure to formaldehyde on a relative basis with respect to individual workers' exposures histories. This complicates data interpretations. Using this definition, analyses of updated mortality data for the NCI cohort reported tentative associations of "peak" exposures with myeloid leukemia (ML) and Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) that are inconsistent with other studies. The new research found no association between acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and cumulative, average or frequency of "peak" exposures. This became clear in the new analysis where AML and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) were evaluated separately, as two types of leukemia are different diseases and have different risk factors. The award-winning Checkoway et al. study conducted more comprehensive analyses of associations of specific lymphohematopoietic malignancies (LHM), especially AML, with peak exposure, using a standard definition of peak exposure. Peak was defined in terms of absolute exposure dose and duration, which permitted direct comparisons among similar studies, strengthening the analysis. Checkoway et al. concluded that no clear associations for peak or cumulative formaldehyde exposures were observed in this cohort for any of the specific LHM, including AML. The result of this analysis adds to the weight of evidence that formaldehyde exposure in the workplace does not cause AML, the LHM of greatest concern. It also underscores the need to ensure new information is effectively considered and incorporated into chemical assessments by IARC, NTP and other agencies. "Having this work recognized by ACOEM as a significant contribution in occupational medicine shows how important these findings are to understanding and interpreting the formaldehyde science," said Kimberly White, Ph.D., Senior Director of the American Chemistry Council Formaldehyde Panel. To learn more, view this fact sheet or visit americanchemistry.com/formaldehyde. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) represents the leading companies engaged in the business of chemistry. ACC members apply the science of chemistry to make innovative products and services that make people's lives better, healthier and safer. ACC is committed to improved environmental, health and safety performance through Responsible Care®, common sense advocacy designed to address major public policy issues, and health and environmental research and product testing. The business of chemistry is a $797 billion enterprise and a key element of the nation's economy. It is the nation's largest exporter, accounting for fourteen percent of all U.S. exports. Chemistry companies are among the largest investors in research and development. Safety and security have always been primary concerns of ACC members, and they have intensified their efforts, working closely with government agencies to improve security and to defend against any threat to the nation's critical infrastructure. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/acc-research-shows-no-link-between-formaldehyde-and-leukemia-300449140.html


The MIT Center for Environmental Health Sciences (CEHS), an interdisciplinary research center, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), invites MIT junior faculty and research staff with principal investigator privileges to submit applications for funding of pilot projects related to environmental health, to support either basic or translational research. Please see the NIEHS strategic plan to gain understanding of the types of projects center plans to fund. Preference is given to projects that address the NIEHS Strategic Goals. The center anticipates funding of $25,000 (direct costs) for each project. The center encourages junior faculty to apply, especially those who are involved in interdisciplinary environmental health collaborations, for example between engineers and scientists. Projects can be anywhere on the spectrum between basic sciences and clinical translation. In all cases, the trajectory to human application must be clear and feasible. Translational Pilot Projects will be evaluated separately from those in the basic sciences. These projects are funded through the generosity of Vilma and Lionel Kinney, and are named in honor of Theron G. Randolph, a pioneer in the fields of environmental and natural products medicine. Applicants should submit a four-page research plan that outlines the specific aims and research strategy (i.e. significant, innovation, and approach). In the project title, please add a parenthesis indicating (Basic Research) or (Translational Research). Applications should also include a detailed budget form (Form Page 4), budget justification, and a biographical sketch using the NIH PHS398 forms. Please note that travel for scientific conferences/meetings are not allowed with these funds. Questions regarding the application process or proposal ideas should be directed to Professor Bevin P. Engelward, deputy director. Deadline for this call is May 31 with an anticipated start date of July 1. Completed applications should be submitted via email to: Amanda Tat, administrative officer of the CEHS.


News Article | May 26, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

New research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) reveals that residents of the Mid-Ohio River Valley (from Evansville, Indiana, north to Huntington, West Virginia) had higher than normal levels of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) based on blood samples collected over a 22-year span. The exposure source was likely from drinking water contaminated by industrial discharges upriver. The study, appearing in the latest publication of Environmental Pollution, looked at levels of PFOA and 10 other per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in 931 Mid-Ohio River Valley residents, testing blood serum samples collected between 1991 and 2013, to determine whether the Ohio River and Ohio River Aquifer were sources of exposure. This is the first study of PFOA serum concentrations in U.S. residents in the 1990s. "These Mid-Ohio River Valley residents appear to have had concentrations of PFOA in their bloodstream at higher than average U.S. levels," says Susan Pinney, PhD, professor in the Department of Environmental Health at the UC College of Medicine, a member of both the Cincinnati Cancer Consortium and UC Cancer Institute and senior author of the study. Ohio River PFOA concentrations downstream were elevated, suggesting Mid-Ohio River Valley residents were exposed through drinking water, primarily contaminated by industrial discharges as far as 666 kilometers (413 miles) upstream. Industrial discharges of PFOA to the Ohio River, contaminating water systems near Parkersburg, West Virginia, were previously associated with nearby residents' serum PFOA concentrations above U.S. general population medians. The article notes that use of granular activated carbon filtration (GAC) by water treatment facilities reduced PFOA exposure by as much as 60 percent. "Where GAC has been used, the blood level concentration of PFOA was decreased significantly," says co-author Robert Herrick, a UC doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Health. Nearly all of the samples tested positive for some level of PFOA (99.9%) but 47 percent of the samples had PFOA levels higher than the 95th national percentile. The study additionally looked at information about municipal water distribution systems and the zones that were serviced by each of the water treatment plants. "We conducted statistical analyses to determine if factors such as location and years of residence, drinking water source and breast feeding were predictors of the person's serum PFC concentration," says Herrick. PFCs have had wide consumer use and industrial applications. They are surfactants used in fire-fighting foams and in the manufacture of stain and water resistant coatings, on cookware, furniture and carpeting. PFOA, or C-8, can be found as a residual impurity in some paper coatings used on containers for processed food. As a byproduct of commercial production, PFCs/PFOA are released into the environment and, although no longer used in manufacturing in the U.S., are considered persistent in the environment. Pinney points out that the primary concern with PFCs/PFOA is that they take a very long time to leave the human body, and studies indicate that exposure to PFOA and PFOS over certain levels may result in adverse health effects, including developmental effects, liver and tissue damage and immune and thyroid impacts. "Because the elimination time could be several years, it is hard to determine what impact these environmental exposures may have on our health and children's health," says Pinney. "These data from the 1990s demonstrate that that the contaminants have been in our water a long time, at unchecked levels, before anyone was paying attention to it." Pinney cites projects like this one as having the translational potential to make improvements in public health. "Studies like these provide evidence to support changes in water treatment practices." An earlier study looking at samples from girls and young women from Northern Kentucky showed that about half of the samples from the girls were much higher than the national average for U.S. children (the 95th percentile) concentration. The Northern Kentucky Water department has since then implemented the use of GAC at their plants to meet new federal regulations, and Cincinnati Water Works used the study's findings to check their treatment regulations and filtration usage. The Mid-Ohio River Valley study was conducted by researchers within the UC College of Medicine Department of Environmental Health, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Research was made possible by the Breast Cancer and the Environment Research Program awards U01ES012770 and U01ES019453 from the NIEHS and the National Cancer Institute; P30-ES006096, R21 ES017176 and T32-ES10957 from NIEHS; EPA-RD-83478801 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and CSTAUL1RR026314 from the National Center for Research Resources. Pinney cites no conflict of interest.


Researchers have discovered for the first time that a common marine sponge hosts bacteria that specialize in the production of toxic compounds nearly identical to man-made fire retardants, a finding that could help scientists better understand the human health implications of these common additives. The new findings, by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at the University of California, San Diego, moved the research team a step closer to unraveling the mysteries of this powerful group of chemical compounds, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health jointly funded the research through SIO's Center for Oceans and Human Health. "For many years scientists have been finding clues that suggested nature was making these compounds," said SIO marine chemist Brad Moore, a senior author of the study. "Now that we understand how they are produced in the marine environment, we are exploring why they exist, and the human health concerns associated with them." The results, which appear in the May issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, came from a unique collaboration among chemists and biologists at SIO and elsewhere. "This study is a powerful combination of chemical, biological and environmental research," said Henrietta Edmonds of NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences. "It has the potential to help us understand the production, fate and health consequences of natural and pollutant compounds in the marine environment." Manufacturers add PBDEs to foam, textiles, electronics and other products to make them less flammable. These industrial chemicals are powerful endocrine disruptors that mimic the activity of the human body's most active thyroid hormone. Vinayak Agarwal, a researcher at SIO, picked up a cold case first started nearly 50 years ago by SIO chemist John Faulkner, an early pioneer in the study of natural products from the sea. Agarwal continued Faulkner's investigation into the source of toxic PDBEs, found in large quantities in the world's oceans. "For the first time we were able to conclusively show that genes and enzymes produced in bacteria from sponges are responsible for the production of these compounds toxic to humans," said Agarwal, co-first author of the paper along with Scripps researcher Jessica Blanton. In 2014, Agarwal and colleagues were the first to discover that unrelated free-living marine bacteria produce the fire retardant compounds naturally. In the new study, researchers employed two modern-day techniques -- genome "mining" and environmental DNA sequencing -- to take the investigation a step farther and identify the specific genes and enzymes involved in the overproduction of the toxic molecules in sponges. Marine sponges obtain food and oxygen by filtering seawater through the pores and channels in their bodies. This constant flow of water means that these immobile animals host many bacteria, viruses and fungi in their complex microbiomes. The research team collected 18 sponge samples for the study during two research expeditions to Guam. They then isolated the various components in the complex mixture of organisms from the sponge's tissues to identify the specific genes and enzymes that code for the production of PBDEs. The genome "mining" approach along with metagenomic sequencing gave the scientists a way to connect the natural chemicals produced by organisms back to the enzymes that constructed them. "We care about naturally produced PBDEs because they end up in the food chain," said NIEHS's Frederick Tyson. "Preliminary data from this research suggest that some naturally occurring PDBEs may be even more toxic than those that are man-made, so we need to develop a better understanding of these compounds." The next step in the investigation is to mine the genes and enzymes in other marine species to found out what other organisms are making similar toxic compounds and why. Co-authors from SIO include Sheila Podell, Michelle Schorn, Julia Busch, and Paul Jensen. Researchers Arnaud Taton and James Golden from UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences, Jason Biggs from the University of Guam's Marine Laboratory, Zhenjian Lin and Eric Schmidt from the University of Utah, and Valerie Paul from the Smithsonian Marine Station also contributed to the study.


A Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego-led research team discovered for the first time that a common marine sponge hosts bacteria that specialize in the production of toxic compounds nearly identical to man-made fire retardants. The new findings put the research team one step closer to unraveling the mystery of this powerful group of chemical compounds, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in the marine environment. PBDEs are a subgroup of brominated flame retardants that are combined into foam, textiles, and electronics to raise the temperature at which the products will burn. These man-made industrial chemicals are powerful endocrine disruptors that mimic the activity of the human body's most active thyroid hormone. Vinayak Agarwal, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps, picked up a cold case first started nearly 50 years ago by Scripps chemist John Faulkner, an early pioneer in the study of natural products from the sea, to continue the investigation into the source of these toxic compounds that are found in large quantities in the world’s oceans. “For the first time we were able to conclusively show that genes and enzymes produced in bacteria from sponges are responsible for the production of these compounds toxic to humans,” said Agarwal, co-first author of the paper along with Scripps PhD student Jessica Blanton. The study was part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)/ National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-funded Center for Oceans and Human Health research being conducted at Scripps. In 2014, Agarwal and colleagues at Scripps Oceanography were the first to discover that unrelated free-living marine bacteria produce these fire retardant compounds naturally, albeit in very small quantities. In this new study, the researchers employed two modern-day techniques—genome “mining” pioneered by Scripps marine chemist Brad Moore and an environmental DNA sequencing approach pioneered by Scripps biologist Eric Allen—to take the investigation a step further and identify the specific genes and enzymes involved in the overproduction of the toxic molecules in sponges. Marine sponges obtain food and oxygen by filtering seawater through the pores and channels in their bodies. This constant water flow means that these immobile animals host many bacteria, viruses, and fungi in their complex microbiomes. The research team collected 18 sponge samples for the study during two research expeditions to Guam. They then isolated the various components of this complex mixture of organisms from the sponge’s tissues to identify the specific genes and enzymes that code for the production of PBDEs. “For many years scientists were finding clues that suggested nature was making these compounds,” said Bradley Moore, a professor at the Scripps Center of Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, and a senior author of the study. “Now that we understand how they are produced in the marine environment, we are exploring why they exist, and the human health concerns associated with them.” Moore’s genome "mining" approach along with Allen’s metagenomic sequencing gives scientists a way to connect the natural chemicals produced by organisms back to the enzymes that construct them. The study, which appears on the cover of the May issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, was a unique collaboration among chemists and biologists at UC San Diego and elsewhere. “This study is a powerful combination of chemical, biological and environmental research,” said Henrietta Edmonds of the NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which supported the research. “It has the potential to help us understand the production, fate and health consequences of natural and pollutant compounds in the marine environment.” “We care about naturally produced PBDEs because they end up in the food chain,” said Frederick Tyson, Ph.D., of the NIEHS, which helped to fund the research. “Preliminary data from this research team suggest that some naturally occurring PDBEs may be even more toxic than those that are man-made, so we need to develop a better understanding of these compounds.” These ocean-dwelling microbes have been found in habitats as diverse as sea grasses, corals and whales. The next step of the investigation for the researchers is to mine the genes and enzymes in other marine hosts to find out what other organisms are making similar toxic compounds and why. Co-authors from Scripps Oceanography include Sheila Podell, Michelle Schorn, Julia Busch, and Paul Jensen. Researchers Arnaud Taton and James Golden from UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences, Jason Biggs from University of Guam’s Marine Laboratory, Zhenjian Lin and Eric Schmidt from the University of Utah, and Valerie Paul from the Smithsonian Marine Station also contributed to the study. Funding for the research was provided through: National Science Foundation grants OCE-1313747, DGE-1144086, IOS-1120113, MCB-1149552; National Institutes of Health grants P01-ES021921, K99-ES026620, R01-GM107557, R01-CA172310, S10-OD010640; the U.S. Department of Energy grant DE-EE0003373; and a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation postdoctoral fellowship.


News Article | May 11, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

A Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego-led research team discovered for the first time that a common marine sponge hosts bacteria that specialize in the production of toxic compounds nearly identical to man-made fire retardants. The new findings put the research team one step closer to unraveling the mystery of this powerful group of chemical compounds, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), in the marine environment. PBDEs are a subgroup of brominated flame retardants that are combined into foam, textiles, and electronics to raise the temperature at which the products will burn. These man-made industrial chemicals are powerful endocrine disruptors that mimic the activity of the human body's most active thyroid hormone. Vinayak Agarwal, a postdoctoral researcher at Scripps, picked up a cold case first started nearly 50 years ago by Scripps chemist John Faulkner, an early pioneer in the study of natural products from the sea, to continue the investigation into the source of these toxic compounds that are found in large quantities in the world's oceans. "For the first time we were able to conclusively show that genes and enzymes produced in bacteria from sponges are responsible for the production of these compounds toxic to humans," said Agarwal, co-first author of the paper along with Scripps PhD student Jessica Blanton. The study was part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)/ National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)-funded Center for Oceans and Human Health research being conducted at Scripps. In 2014, Agarwal and colleagues at Scripps Oceanography were the first to discover that unrelated free-living marine bacteria produce these fire retardant compounds naturally, albeit in very small quantities. In this new study, the researchers employed two modern-day techniques--genome "mining" pioneered by Scripps marine chemist Brad Moore and an environmental DNA sequencing approach pioneered by Scripps biologist Eric Allen--to take the investigation a step further and identify the specific genes and enzymes involved in the overproduction of the toxic molecules in sponges. Marine sponges obtain food and oxygen by filtering seawater through the pores and channels in their bodies. This constant water flow means that these immobile animals host many bacteria, viruses, and fungi in their complex microbiomes. The research team collected 18 sponge samples for the study during two research expeditions to Guam. They then isolated the various components of this complex mixture of organisms from the sponge's tissues to identify the specific genes and enzymes that code for the production of PBDEs. "For many years scientists were finding clues that suggested nature was making these compounds," said Bradley Moore, a professor at the Scripps Center of Marine Biotechnology and Biomedicine and the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC San Diego, and a senior author of the study. "Now that we understand how they are produced in the marine environment, we are exploring why they exist, and the human health concerns associated with them." Moore's genome "mining" approach along with Allen's metagenomic sequencing gives scientists a way to connect the natural chemicals produced by organisms back to the enzymes that construct them. The study, which appears on the cover of the May issue of the journal Nature Chemical Biology, was a unique collaboration among chemists and biologists at UC San Diego and elsewhere. "This study is a powerful combination of chemical, biological and environmental research," said Henrietta Edmonds of the NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences, which supported the research. "It has the potential to help us understand the production, fate and health consequences of natural and pollutant compounds in the marine environment." "We care about naturally produced PBDEs because they end up in the food chain," said Frederick Tyson, Ph.D., of the NIEHS, which helped to fund the research. "Preliminary data from this research team suggest that some naturally occurring PDBEs may be even more toxic than those that are man-made, so we need to develop a better understanding of these compounds." These ocean-dwelling microbes have been found in habitats as diverse as sea grasses, corals and whales. The next step of the investigation for the researchers is to mine the genes and enzymes in other marine hosts to find out what other organisms are making similar toxic compounds and why. Co-authors from Scripps Oceanography include Sheila Podell, Michelle Schorn, Julia Busch, and Paul Jensen. Researchers Arnaud Taton and James Golden from UC San Diego's Division of Biological Sciences, Jason Biggs from University of Guam's Marine Laboratory, Zhenjian Lin and Eric Schmidt from the University of Utah, and Valerie Paul from the Smithsonian Marine Station also contributed to the study. Funding for the research was provided through: National Science Foundation grants OCE-1313747, DGE-1144086, IOS-1120113, MCB-1149552; National Institutes of Health grants P01-ES021921, K99-ES026620, R01-GM107557, R01-CA172310, S10-OD010640; the U.S. Department of Energy grant DE-EE0003373; and a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation postdoctoral fellowship. Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram. At the University of California San Diego, we constantly push boundaries and challenge expectations. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren't afraid to take risks and redefine conventional wisdom. Today, as one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth, and make our world a better place. Learn more at http://www. .

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