Mount Sinai Researchers Receive $43 Million Grant to Study Impact of Environmental Exposures On Children’s Health and Development
Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been awarded $43 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a five-year research program, called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). The ECHO study aims to evaluate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development influences health during childhood, adolescence, and the transition into adulthood.
The funding is part of a federally funded national multisite research program designed to comprehensively measure the health impact of early-life environmental factors in U.S. children. ECHO is the largest pediatric cohort study in the country and will provide researchers with the necessary large sample size, expanded expertise, and access to emerging technologies to more comprehensively examine the influences of environmental exposures on health over a person’s lifespan.
Rosalind Wright, MD, MPH, Horace W. Goldsmith Professor of Pediatrics and Dean for Translational Biomedical Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Robert Wright, MD, MPH, Professor and Ethel H. Wise Chair of the School’s Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, are principal investigator leading Mount Sinai’s initiative in the study of the effects of chemical, nutritional, and social factors that influence child neurodevelopment. The study includes 5,000 women and their children, from diverse ethnic backgrounds, living in the northeastern United States. The Mount Sinai program will also partner with researchers from institutions across the country studying up to 50,000 families focused on investigating the influence of environmental exposures on four key topics of high public health importance: respiratory disorders such as asthma, child growth and obesity, perinatal outcomes such as preterm birth, and neurobehavioral and cognitive difficulties that may affect social and academic functioning in the longer term.
The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai was previously awarded a grant under the NIH’s Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR), which is designed to provide laboratory resources and other infrastructure to analyze samples, data, and other information collected through ECHO. Mount Sinai has also been awarded two other CHEAR grants: a Laboratory Hub grant, and a grant to serve as the CHEAR network Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center. The amount of both CHEAR grants will be increased through the ECHO program. Dr. Robert Wright leads the CHEAR laboratory effort and Susan Teitelbaum, PhD, Professor, Environmental Health and Medicine, leads the CHEAR Data Center at Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai is one of only two institutions in the nation to be both an ECHO and a CHEAR site.
This ECHO grant and Mount Sinai’s CHEAR grants are both supported by Mount Sinai’s Institute for Exposomic Research, directed by both Drs. Wright, and they illustrate the value and importance of this new Institute and the expertise it brings. Mount Sinai’s CHEAR lab, also based in the Institute for Exposomic Research, will measure exposures to common chemicals like metals, plastics, and pesticides, and will run “untargeted” chemical assays that identify thousands of chemicals in a single biological sample.
“ECHO and CHEAR are naturally synergistic programs, as CHEAR will identify thousands of chemicals to which children are exposed, and via ECHO can systematically study which are toxic, which are harmless, and which are beneficial. Keep in mind that untargeted screens measure nutrients as well as industrial chemicals, so this work can help us identify both good and bad actors on child health,” Dr. Robert Wright said.
“A broad range of experiences from conception to early childhood, including exposure to air pollution and chemicals and societal factors such as stress, can have long-lasting effects on the health of our children,” said Dr. Rosalind Wright. “The ECHO Program aims to determine what factors give children the highest probability of achieving the best health outcomes over their lifetimes.”
“The findings from this pioneering study will significantly assist our understanding of complex chronic diseases, as it is becoming clearer that the environment we experience as children, even starting before birth, has a major influence on our health as adults,” says Dennis S. Charney, MD, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Dean, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and President for Academic Affairs, Mount Sinai Health System. “We thank the NIH for their support and recognition and are excited to be part of this groundbreaking endeavor.”
Other institutions involved in the Mount Sinai ECHO program include the Inova Translational Medicine Institute, based in Falls Church, Virginia; Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel; Boston Children's Hospital; Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston; Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; the Harvard School of Public Health; and Northwestern University.
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