• Press Release

$1.5 Million NIH Grant to Fund Mount Sinai Study of Environmental Toxin Impact on Fetal Development

  • (October 06, 2014)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded Manish Arora, BDS, PhD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, a 2014 New Innovator Award. Dr. Arora will receive a $1.5 million grant towards studying the impact of environmental toxins and stress on fetal development. This is the first time that the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), one of the 27 research centers that comprise the NIH, has presented a Young Innovator Award. The award will be formally announced during the 2014 High Risk High Reward Symposium at the NIH headquarters in Bethesda, MD, in December.

“From identifying the most hazardous industrial chemicals to studying the impact of those chemicals on the developing brain, Mount Sinai has led the way in environmental health, and we are pleased that the NIH recognizes the important work done by Dr. Arora and his research team,” said Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, Ethel H. Wise Professor & Chair, Department of Preventive Medicine,  Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai.  

Dr. Arora and his team have proposed to develop a new methodology to study how fetal development may be changed by environmental toxins, as well as the associated risks of long-term health disorders.  Past animal studies show that certain pollutants in the environment can impair the development of the brain, for instance, and preventive health experts hope to confirm such effects as a precursor to regulations that protect public health.

The team’s proposed methodology provides a window into the past and imparts critical information about toxic exposures dating as far back as the prenatal period.  The team will retrospectively reconstruct fetal exposure to environmental toxicants with the aim of identifying not only how much of a  harmful chemical an individual was exposed to, but also when that exposure occurred, even if it was before birth.  For the first time, case-control studies can obtain time-series data on early life environmental exposures. Not only does the team aim to develop laboratory analytical techniques, but they will also develop novel, statistical modeling approaches that enable the rapid translation of information for public health application.   

“We now recognize that measuring exposure to environmental toxins, in and of itself, is not sufficient to study health risks: whether exposure to such toxicants results in disruption of key physiological pathways ultimately increases the risk of a clinically detectable disease,” said Dr. Arora.  “This fundamentally new methodology is based on laboratory methods we developed, and we are grateful to the NIH for supporting this critically important research.”

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