Mount Sinai Awarded $25 Million to Study the Environment’s Influence on People’s Health Throughout Their Lifetimes
Three world-renowned environmental health researchers from the Institute for Exposomic Research at Mount Sinai have been awarded grants worth a total of $25 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the newly formed Human Health Environmental Assessment Resource (HHEAR). This program is dedicated to measuring all the environmental factors faced in people’s lives—a new science called “exposomics,” which is expected to yield important insights about disease processes and potential treatments.
The NIH established the HHEAR Laboratory Network Hub research network to facilitate novel research into children’s and adults’ environmental health. The goal of the consortium is to provide scientific researchers access to state-of–the-art laboratory analyses and advanced statistical data analyses \of all the measurable environmental exposures that people face, so researchers can better understand why children and adults develop diseases like autism, asthma, heart disease, or even cancer. Additionally, HHEAR will make exposomic data publicly available and provide tools to allow the near-effortless pooling of the data across studies, so researchers around the world can better understand the effects of thousands of environmental exposures on health across people’s lifespans.
“This program is another giant step in the growth of our exposomics program. Mount Sinai is the only institution to be awarded multiple components of the large HHEAR research program with three large grants in exposomics, illustrating our leadership in the field,” said Robert Wright, MD, MPH, Ethel H. Wise Chair of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, and Co-Director of the Institute for Exposomic Research. “These three grants will further propel the Institute for Exposomic Research at Mount Sinai to the forefront of efforts to measure the exposome, the totality of environmental exposures from conception and throughout life. We believe studying the exposome is crucial to understanding how the complex mix of nutritional, chemical, and social environments affects health, disease, and development and to translate those findings into new strategies for prevention and treatment.”
The NIH awarded Dr. Wright funding for a HHEAR Laboratory Network Hub that studies mixtures of hundreds of exposures to substances. The lab will measure these exposures across all life stages to help NIH-funded researchers improve medical treatments and prevent diseases. The substances to be studied include lead, mercury, and other metals; plastics; pesticides; flame retardants; endocrine-disrupting chemicals; and tobacco metabolites, using state-of the art methods that take samples from sources including teeth, hair, and blood.
The NIH awarded Manish Arora, PhD, MPH, the Edith J. Baerwald Professor and Vice Chair of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, and Director of the Lautenberg Laboratory for Environmental Sciences, funding for a HHEAR Laboratory Hub that studies unidentified chemical exposures. This grant will use a suite of “omic” technologies to measure exposure to environmental chemicals and their metabolites as well as the internal response to those exposures. His grant works in tandem with Dr. Wright’s grant by discovering previously unknown chemical exposures that are then targeted for health research.
“Our team will build upon its highly successful work in creating novel methods to measure current and past chemical exposures in novel biological matrices and develop new assays that arise from HHEAR’s resources,” said Dr. Arora. “This project links highly experienced environmental health scientists with physicians, toxicologists, environmental researchers, chemists, exposure scientists, epidemiologists, and computer scientists to build the infrastructure and capacity to objectively measure the human exposome.”
Susan Teitelbaum, PhD, Research Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, also received funding for the HHEAR Data Center which provides statistical analysis and data science expertise that is critical for advancing understanding of the complex “soup” of chemicals that affect people daily. The Data Center will incorporate scientific high-performance super-computing capabilities that Mount Sinai is known for to maximize the potential use and impact of environmental data within and outside of HHEAR, and will leverage the potential of big data to accelerate environmental health studies far beyond their original funded goals.
“This center has the potential to accomplish research that was previously thought unfeasible or too costly, through the use of recently developed big data techniques,” said Dr. Teitelbaum. “The HHEAR Data Center is critical to advancing the scientific community’s ability to examine the environment on an exposome scale.”
About The Institute for Exposomic Research
The Institute for Exposomic Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is the world’s first research institute devoted to the intensive study of the exposome, or the totality of environmental influences on human health. The mission of the Institute is to understand how the complex mix of nutritional, chemical, and social environments affect health, disease, and development later in life and to translate those findings into new strategies for prevention and treatment. For more information, visit http://icahn.mssm.edu/exposomics.
About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationally by U.S. News & World Report.