Members of the Medical Campus are invited to the Feb. 6 Cancer-focused Seminar Series (CFSS). The goal of the CFSS is to promote interaction and collaboration of cancer researchers across the Medical and Charles River campuses. Three talks will be presented at this seminar.
- Tracy Battaglia, MD, MPH, Battaglia Lab, “Repairing the Disconnect: Optimizing Cancer Care Delivery Through Patient Centered Research”
- Charina Ortega, Dominguez Lab, “Mining CK2 in Cancer”
- Kevin Chandler, PhD, Costello Lab, “Studying Posttranslational Modifications of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor 2 (VEGFR-2) in Tumor Angiogenesis
What: Cancer-focused Seminar Series
When: Friday, Feb. 6, Noon-1:15 p.m.
Where: BUSM Instructional Building, L-110
Mark your calendar for future seminars March 6, April 3, May 1. All future seminars will take place noon-1:15 p.m. in Bakst Auditorium.
In two lines they marched, the 164th entering class of BUSM, greeted by the smiles and clicking cameras of family and friends. With a white coat draped over their arm, they entered the tent raised for the White Coat Ceremony held Monday, August 6. The white coats signify the students’ entry into the profession of medicine.
“The White Coat ceremony marks a major life transition, the beginning of your formal medical education,” said Dean Karen Antman. “When you put on your white coat for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that, as of today, you are now already a part of the profession. When you see your first patients in the coming weeks, you represent the profession.”
The 181 members of the entering Class of 2012 were chosen from a pool of 11,780 candidates. They represent 80 undergraduate institutions. Forty-four percent are women. Thirty-five percent hold a graduate degree at the Master’s level or above, and some have more than one advanced degree.
“All of you have met academic and personal challenges; all of you have had successes and failures; all of you have sacrificed much and accomplished a great deal to reach this moment,” noted Robert Witzburg, MD ’77, associate dean for admissions, as he presented the class for matriculation. “As you move into the next phase of your journey, your entry into the sacred trust that is the profession of medicine, each of you will struggle. What will sustain you in these difficult moments will be your own skill and talent, your own resilience and strength of character, the support of your classmates, the love of your family and friends, and the commitment of your teachers and mentors.”
For the first time at a BUSM White Coat Ceremony, the class was grouped by their Academy of Advisors. BUSM medical students are assigned an academy to which they will belong throughout their medical education. Each of the six academies provide students mentoring and career development and offer ongoing guidance and support from experienced faculty members, educators, and role models of professionalism to the students.
Douglas Hughes, MD, associate dean for academic affairs, called the students to podium, while faculty and deans helped each one don their white coat to begin their journey where upon the newest members of the BUSM community recited the Hippocratic Oath led by Samantha Kaplan, MD, assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs.
As the guest speaker, Kenneth Grundfast, MD, assist dean for student affairs and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, addressed the dramatic change about to take place in their lives as they transition from student to physician. “By the time you finish medical school, you will be ready to accept the weighty responsibility that comes when people look to you to help alleviate their suffering, to cure them of cancer, to help restore their mental health, to help them give birth to their children and to be the doctor for their children. It is a sacred privilege to be given the opportunity to take care of patients. I loved it as a medical student and just as much today.”
View pictures from the ceremony on facebook.
GSDM hosted the second annual Family Weekend, which culminated with the White Coat Ceremony on Saturday, July 7, for the DMD Class of 2014 and the AS Class of 2013. Students and their families enjoyed guided tours of the School during the day on Saturday and then gathered at the George Sherman Union at 775 Commonwealth Avenue for the Ceremony in the late afternoon. Nearly 700 people attended.
The White Coat Ceremony marks the midway point of the students’ education and celebrates their transition from the classroom to the treatment center. Students will now begin managing the comprehensive oral healthcare of their assigned patients and providing them with needed treatment in the fifth and sixth floor Patient Treatment Centers of the School of Dental Medicine.
The Ceremony Processional was led by the following Grand Marshalls: Associate Chair of the Department of General Dentistry, Director of Pre-doctoral Restorative Dentistry and Professor Dr. Celeste Kong; Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Daniel Moran; Director of Pre-doctoral Removable Prosthodontics and Clinical Professor Dr. Ronni Schnell and President of the GSDM Alumni Association and Chair of the GSDM Alumni Board, Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Tina Valades.
Assistant Dean of Students and Assistant Professor of General Dentistry Dr. Joseph Calabrese started off the ceremony.
Reflecting back on the day, Dr. Calabrese said, “Our students have reached a significant milestone in their dental education. Receiving their white coats in front of their families and friends in such a special ceremony was inspiring. This is a tradition that I, as well as our students, look forward to every year. I know how proud I was of our students so I can only imagine how their families must have felt.”
Dr. Calabrese then introduced Dean and Spencer N. Frankl Professor in Dental Medicine, Dr. Jeffrey W. Hutter. Dean Hutter welcomed the assembled students and their families.
He said, “It is certainly an honor to welcome the friends and families of the DMD Class of 2014 and the Advanced Standing Class of 2013. As they mark this important rite of passage, I cannot tell you how much it means to them and to me that so many of you are here with us today.” He continued, “Although they have had the opportunity of treating patients since they began their dental education, they are about to begin the very important phase of their education in which they manage their own assigned patients and provide comprehensive oral healthcare to them. In so doing, they hone their clinical skills in their chosen profession of dentistry. Their participation in this important ceremony marks the beginning of their transition into professionals.”
The keynote speaker for the Ceremony was Dr. Andrea Richman. Dr. Richman, a general practitioner, graduated from Tufts in 1978 and completed a General Practice Residency at Boston City Hospital in 1979. Richman has served as the Yankee Dental Congress General Chair and in various other YDC volunteer positions. She served as MDS president in 2007, becoming the first woman to serve in that position. She is also a liaison for the MDS to the Board of Registration in Dentistry and currently serves on the board of Eastern Dental Insurance Company.
During her keynote speech, Dr. Richman remarked, “Each of you has been awarded a coveted slot in this school because you have that capacity to transition from student to Doctor. This is what it is all about. This is what your next one to two years are about—not just changing coats, but changing your mindset; learning to accept responsibility for your decisions and learning to be a professional.”
Following Dr. Richman’s address, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Periodontology & Oral Biology, Dr. Cataldo Leone officially presented the class to Dean Hutter.
Dean Hutter then commenced the White Coat Ceremony during which as Dr. DuLong read their names, the students were presented with their white coats by faculty members Drs. Joseph Calabrese, John Guarente, and Cataldo Leone, and congratulated by Dr. Janet Peters and Dean Hutter before exiting the stage. The Ceremony closed with Dean Hutter leading the students in the reading of the Professional Oath, the same oath they took at the Professional Ceremony during their respective orientations in 2010 and 2011 He also shared some personal closing remarks to the newly White Coated students.
After the Ceremony, the students proceeded to the small ballroom for their respective DMD Class of 2014 and AS Class of 2013 photos with Dean Hutter. A lovely reception, including passed hor d’oeuvres and a pasta station, was held at the Ziskind Lounge for the students and their families. The festivities were funded in part by a generous donation from the Massachusetts Dental Society (MDS). MDS regularly supports Massachusetts dental students by supporting student activities at GSDM.
What is SURP? SURP is the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, a ten week research and mentoring experience with Division of Graduate Medical Sciences faculty. The cohort is academically talented students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in preparing for professional roles as research scientists. SURP was launched in the summer of 2010 under the leadership of Associate Provost Linda Hyman, PhD. In addition to a mentored research experience, students attend weekly science talks, participate in a journal club, go on science-oriented field trips, and present their research in a summer research symposium. The 2012 symposium will be held on Aug. 2.
In 2012 the applicant pool for SURP tripled, due largely to visibility with offices of career services, faculty advisors, NIH funded scholar programs and word of mouth. Members of the faculty admissions committee are Carol Walsh, PhD; Lisa Ganley-Leal, PhD and William Cruikshank, PhD. Faculty mentors for the 2012 cohort include: Weining Lu, MD; Barbara Corkey, PhD; Irina Zhadanova, MD, PhD; Hui Feng, MD, PhD; Daniel Remick, MD; Barbara Smith, PhD and Andrew Taylor, PhD.
In addition to acting as mentors, other GMS faculty and advanced PhD students contribute to the program by presenting their research at weekly “science talks.” On June 6, Drs. Brady and Levy-Bell, senior faculty in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program, co-led a discussion about personality factors in career planning. During the June 13 seminar, Isabel Dominguez, PhD talked about her passion for science and long-term research in Wnt signaling. Dr. Dominguez stressed that mentors are critical for students who wish to develop robust and productive research careers.
This year a journal club was added to the SURP program. Dr. Cruikshank will facilitate the club so that students gain a better understanding of the research concepts of their labs and improve their presentation skills.
Budding research scientists, LaTayia, Aaron, Clark-Atlanta University; Juan Ballester, University of Puerto Rico; Christine Doronio, Mount St. Mary’s College; Johnny Groeling, Queens College; Lydia Ruffner, Spelman College; Taylor Harris, Winston-Salem State University and Rui Soares, Boston College will have the opportunity to continue building their professional skills by participating in upcoming national conferences such as the Annual Biomedical Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) and the Society for Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).
For more information about SURP please contact Linda Zimmerman, Program Manager at 638-5704 or email@example.com.
Study Shows First Case Series of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in Blast-Exposed Military Service Personnel and Mechanism of Injury in Blast Neurotrauma
Investigators from Boston University (BU) and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System have shown evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in brain tissue from blast-exposed military service personnel. Laboratory experiments conducted by the investigators demonstrated that exposure to a single blast equivalent to a typical improvised explosive device (IED) results in CTE and long-term brain impairments that accompany the disease. They also found that the blast wind, not the shock wave, from the IED blast leads to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and long-term consequences, including CTE.
This research, which represents the first case series of postmortem brains from U.S. military personnel who were exposed to a blast and/or a concussive injury, will be published online May 16 by Science Translational Medicine.
Lee Goldstein, MD, PhD, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston University College of Engineering, and Ann McKee, MD, professor at BUSM and director of the Neuropathology Service for VA New England Healthcare System, led this international collaborative study and are the senior co-authors.
CTE, which can only be diagnosed postmortem, is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder that has been reported in athletes with multiple concussions or subconcussive injuries. In early stages, CTE is characterized by the presence of abnormal deposits of a protein called tau in the form of neurofibrillary tangles, glial tangles and neuropil threads throughout the brain. These tau lesions eventually lead to brain cell death. CTE has clinical features in common with TBI, including psychiatric symptoms and long-term cognitive disability involving memory and learning deficits. TBI can impact military personnel exposed to an explosive blast and may affect approximately 20 percent of the 2.3 million servicemen and women deployed since 2001.
In this study, investigators performed comprehensive neuropathological analyses on brain tissue from four military service personnel with known blast exposure and/or concussive injury. They compared these results with brain tissue samples from three young amateur American football players and a professional wrestler, all of whom had a history of repetitive concussive injury, and four samples from comparably-aged normal controls with no history of blast exposure, concussive injury or neurological disease.
The investigators found that CTE neuropathology in the brains of blast-exposed military veterans was similar to that found in young athletes with repetitive concussion and consistent with what has previously been observed in brain samples from other athletes with a history of repetitive concussive injury.
“Our results showed that the neuropathology from blast exposure, concussive injury, or both were virtually indistinguishable from those with a history of repeat concussive injury,” said McKee, who is the director of the Brain Banks for BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which are based at the Bedford VA Medical Center. McKee said that these findings indicate that TBI caused by different factors may trigger similar disease pathways in the brain.
“The neuropsychiatric symptoms of CTE that have previously been associated with athletes diagnosed with CTE could also be attributed to military personnel who were exposed to blast,” said Goldstein, who also is affiliated with the BU Photonics Center and served as the study’s lead author.
To examine the impact of a single blast exposure, the investigators collaborated with leading experts in blast physics, experimental pathology and neurophysiology at Boston University, VA Boston Healthcare System, White River Junction VA Medical Center, New York Medical College, Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Oxford. The team’s experimental data showed that one blast comparable to that experienced by military service personnel in the field resulted in both neuropathological and behavioral evidence of CTE. Surprisingly, the long-term impairments in brain function, including impaired learning and memory, were observed just two weeks after exposure to a single blast.
The blast wind from an IED can reach a velocity of up to 330 miles per hour, which is greater than the largest wind gust ever recorded on earth. “The force of the blast wind causes the head to move so forcefully that it can result in damage to the brain,” said Goldstein.
Based on the results, the investigators went a step further and explored how they could prevent the brain injury. They demonstrated that immobilizing the head during a blast exposure prevented the learning and memory deficits associated with CTE that occurred when the head was not immobilized.
“Our study provides compelling evidence that blast TBI and CTE are structural brain disorders that can emerge as a result of brain injury on the battlefield or playing field,” added Goldstein. “Now that we have identified the mechanism responsible for CTE, we can work on developing ways to prevent it so that we can protect athletes and our military service personnel.”
The study results provide a pathway for the development of novel diagnostic strategies for blast-related brain trauma, as well as to treat and rehabilitate those who have been exposed to blast and/or a concussive injury.
Save the date, May 17! Join Howard C. Bauchner, MD, Editor-in-Chief of JAMA and Scientific Publications and Multimedia Applications as he speaks on “My First Year at JAMA.” Dr. Bauchner was named Editor-in Chief on July 1, 2011, after serving as a faculty member of pediatrics and community health sciences on the Medical Campus for 25 years. He also served as the vice chair of the Department of Pediatrics at BMC/BUSM and assistant dean, alumni affairs and continuing medical education at BUSM.
Dr. Bauchner is coming to the Medical Campus as the Joel and Barbara Alpert Lecturer in General Pediatrics. This is the 16th year of the lectureship and the associated fund supports the pilot research of pediatric residents, fellows and junior faculty largely directed at the medical and social needs of children at risk. Click here for information on the fund.
A BUSM alumnus, Dr. Bauchner is the 16th editor in the journal’s 127-year history. As Editor-in-Chief, he has editorial oversight of JAMA and the nine Archives journals, the specialty medical journals published by the AMA.
Dr. Bauchner will speak on Thursday, May 17 at 12:15 p.m. at 670 Albany St., in the Ground Floor Auditorium (lunch will be served).
Dr. Bauchner completed his undergraduate training at the University of California, Berkeley, and graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1979. He completed his internship and junior-year residency at Boston City Hospital, his senior-year residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, and then returned to be Chief Resident at what was then Boston City Hospital. He received additional training in epidemiology and statistics as a Robert Wood Johnson General Pediatrics Academic Development Scholar at Yale-New Haven Hospital and has been on sabbatical twice, first as a Scholar in Residence at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and then as a Scholar in Residence at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Please join The Department of Biochemistry and The Evans Center on Tuesday, April 3, at 3 p.m. in Keefer Auditorium for second part of the Spring 2012 Thematic Seminar Series Mitochondria: Engines of Life, Drivers of Disease.
Douglas C. Wallace, PhD, Director, Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine (CMEM), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and Professor, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Pennsylvania will discuss “Energyomics-Energenomics: A Mitochondrial Etiology of Complex Diseases.”
Dr. Wallace has been working on human and mammalian mitochondrial genetics for 40 years. He was the first to demonstrate that mammalian cells harbored cytoplasmically inherited genes by inventing the cybrid transfer technique in the early 1970s and using this system to demonstrate that mammalian chloramphenicol resistance could be transferred from cell to cell by fusing only a cytoplasmic fragment, a cytoplast, in the absence of a nucleus. He then proceeded during the 1970s to define the rules of mammalian mitochondrial genetics, culminating in his demonstration of the maternal inheritance of the human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in 1980. From this foundation, his research followed two paths: the investigation of the nature and extent of human mtDNA variation in aboriginal populations and the quest for diseases resulting from mutations in the mtDNA. The population studies revealed that mtDNA variation was unique in that it correlated highly with the ethnic and geographic origins of indigenous peoples. This ultimately led to the realization that mtDNA variation was limited by natural selection and that mtDNA variation has been the primary adaptive system for permitting people to survive and multiple in the range of different human environments. The quest for mtDNA diseases culminated in 1988 with the report by Wallace that Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON) was caused by a mtDNA missense mutation, making it the first maternally inherited mtDNA disease to be identified. Since that time, Dr. Wallace has not only shown that mtDNA mutations result in a wide range of clinical phenotypes but also that somatic mtDNA mutations are central to the aging process as well as for various age-related diseases such as Alzheimer and Huntington Disease. When the population specific mtDNA variation was compared to the frequency of common “complex” diseases it was found that ancient mtDNA variation plays a large role in predisposition to many of these diseases. Thus, mtDNA variation has now been shown to be central to both rare and common multi-system diseases.
Dr. Wallace will be guest of honor at a noon luncheon with graduate students and post docs, in W502. He will be available for conversation at a 4 pm, reception in the Evans Seminar Room, E112A.
Boston University School of Medicine; Boston Medical Center, Section of Infectious Diseases; and the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories are co-sponsoring the World TB Day Symposium March 22-23 on the Boston University Medical Campus. World TB Day is officially March 24, and it celebrates the discovery of the tubercle bacillus by Robert Koch in 1882. On March 24, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention release the latest data on global and U.S. tuberculosis epidemiology. This is the fourth year that TB investigators from the northeast have gathered for a scientific meeting to present their very latest research.
This symposium differs from all other World TB meetings being held in that all presenters are principal investigators and leaders in TB research. Previous meetings have been at the Trudeau Institute, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and the Wadsworth Institute. The Potts Foundation has provided financial support to defray the costs for the participants.
This two-day Symposium is an opportunity to convene with peers and share insights and progress in the fight against Tuberculosis. The Symposium will cover advances in Global and Translational Sciences; Prevention; Diagnosis; Treatment; Host Response and Pathogen Biology. Nearly 100 participants have already registered for the conference.
Symposium committee members include: Andrea Cooper, PhD, Trudeau Institute; Jerrold Ellner, MD, Boston University School of Medicine; Marila Gennaro, MD, Public Health Research Institute; Igor Kramnik, PhD, Boston University School of Medicine; Kathleen McDonough, PhD, Wadsworth Center.
Registration is complimentary to meeting attendees. Please visit http://www.bumc.bu.edu/id/events/ to register and for more details.
In Catharine MacKinnon’s 1993 treatise Only Words, the feminist scholar writes that “the law of equality and the law of freedom of speech are on a collision course in this country.”
This semester, students at the School of Public Health are examining that collision through an unusual lens—not through the study of law or human rights, but through a lesson in hard-core pornography.
Four SPH faculty have introduced the subject of pornography into the curriculum in hopes of stirring debate around issues of public health. Does pornography shape the way adolescents think about their sexuality? Does it fuel sexual violence? Does it intentionally degrade women?
On Feb. 10 more than 150 public health students crammed into the Medical Campus Bakst Auditorium to view a documentary about the pornography industry, The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships, and hear from two leading experts on the topic: Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College, and Carol Queen, a sexologist and part owner of Good Vibrations, a sex merchandise company with stores in Brookline, Mass., and San Francisco.
The debate—with Dines taking the antiporn position and Queen the pro-porn—wound through issues of racism and rape, exploitation and sex education, poverty and patriarchy.
“It feels like this is what education should be like—tackling a hotly contested topic from different perspectives, including public health,” said Emily Rothman, an SPH associate professor of community health sciences, who organized the forum. “Pornography is so widely available now, in the Internet age, it’s naive to think that it isn’t having a profound impact on our culture, including the way we interact with each other.”
SPH Dean Robert Meenan (MED’72, GSM’89) acknowledged in his opening remarks that bringing students together to view and discuss a film that included scenes of hard-core pornography was not standard public health school fare. But, he noted, “Public health has to raise and deal with uncomfortable topics, and it has to push people into uncomfortable conversations.” Sex and debate, he said, are “perspectives that [fuel] the field of public health.”
Rothman, who teaches an SPH course in sexual violence, said she began thinking seriously about introducing pornography into the curriculum after seeing the The Price of Pleasure last year. The film explores the negative aspects of “gonzo” porn, in which the focus is on sexual acts—graphic and sometimes violent—not on a narrative story line.
“My first thought was, my students have to see this,” Rothman said. “I wanted us to explore the idea of whether pornography is a public health issue—and if it is, how do we come at it as practitioners?”
The forum brought Rothman’s class together with three other SPH classes that deal with sexuality, reproductive health, and adolescent health. The SPH faculty members teaching those classes–Renee Johnson, an assistant professor of community health sciences, Sophie Godley (SPH’15), a clinical assistant professor of community health sciences, and Lois McCloskey, an associate professor of community health sciences–said pornography crossed into public health in many areas, including risk behaviors, sexual exploitation, and gender roles and behavior. The four had discussed the issues as part of their course work in advance of the forum.
“The best evidence we have suggests that young people today are being exposed to pornography a lot,” said Johnson, who teaches a class on adolescent health. That exposure raises questions about whether pornography should be part of sex education, she said.
Students peppered Dines and Queen with questions about the impact and intent of pornography, including whether the porn industry had created a market for violent porn or whether violence in the culture had pushed porn to its gonzo extremes.
“I just don’t understand how you can support an industry that’s so violent towards women,” one student pressed Queen.
“Where is the line—a world with no porn?” another student asked Dines. “If we limit this type of speech, where do we draw the line?”
Dines said “body-punishing, brutal pornography” has become “the number one most profitable pornography,” and she argued that poverty, racism, and sexism drive the industry. “In an ideal world, they would have trouble finding women who would elect to do this” for employment, she said, adding that she views pornography as propaganda for a patriarchic social structure.
“Nothing delivers patriarchy to you like a bullet between the eyes like pornography,” she said.
Queen said gonzo porn is just one swath of the pornography landscape, and cautioned the students not to conflate violence with explicit sex. “The industry is more diverse” than what the film depicted, she said.
The two speakers clashed around the question of whether pornography is a trigger for sexual violence.
“What I know about sexual violence and rape, it isn’t about sex—it’s about violence,” Queen said. She doesn’t believe exposure to pornography “makes you do the things you see. It’s perfectly possible to see something and not imitate it.”
But Dines said it was wrong to assume that pornography plays no role in sexual violence. “Advertising has an effect on consumer behavior—we would all agree on that,” she said. “So does porn that involves violence and abuse. The bigger issue is, how is this imagery constructing men’s sexual identities?”
Rothman said research into the link between pornography and sexual violence is a new field, one she has started pursuing. A recent study she led found that young women who had seen pornography in the prior month were five times as likely as those who had not seen pornography to report having had a group-sex experience, coercive or consensual.
Godley, who teaches the SPH class Safer Sex in the City: From Science to Policy, which deals with research-based knowledge about sexuality and health, acknowledged that she was initially apprehensive about having her students see The Price of Pleasure.
But she was delighted, she said, to be part of an event that allowed for “a civil dialogue between people who disagree. That’s a rare thing in 2012—to actually have a productive discussion that moves us forward and gets us all thinking.”
In this video link, SPH faculty discuss whether pornography has become a growing public health issue. Video by Michael Saunders
This BU Today story was written by Lisa Chedekel. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Early childhood exposure to water contaminated with the solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) increases the risks of bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, a new study by BU School of Public Health researchers has found.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that while there was no association between PCE exposure and the incidence of depression, people with prenatal and early-childhood exposure had almost twice the risk of bipolar disorder compared to an unexposed group. The risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) was raised by 50 percent. Those with the highest exposures reported the highest rates of the two mental illnesses.
PCE, a solvent used in dry-cleaning and other industries, is a neurotoxin known to cause mood changes, anxiety, and depressive disorders in people who work with it. To date, the long-term effects on children exposed to PCE have been less clear.
From 1968 until the early 1980s, water companies in Massachusetts installed vinyl-lined water pipes that were subsequently found to be leaching PCE into the drinking water supply. Researchers from BUSPH have been studying the effects of that exposure on both children and adults who were living on Cape Cod. The new study focused on prenatal and early-childhood exposure in eight towns: Barnstable, Bourne, Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, Brewster, Chatham, and Provincetown.
Ann Aschengrau, professor of epidemiology at BUSPH and the study’s lead author, said that while it is impossible to calculate the exact amount of PCE people were exposed to, “levels of PCE were recorded as high as 1,550 times the currently recommended safe limit.
“While the water companies flushed the pipes to address this problem,” she added, “people are still being exposed to PCE in the dry cleaning and textile industries, and from consumer products, and so the potential for an increased risk of illness remains real.”
While the study examined the association between PCE exposure and schizophrenia, the authors said the number of schizophrenia cases was too small to draw reliable conclusions. In addition, they noted that the study relied on self-reports of mental illness, with subjects asked if a health care provider had ever diagnosed them with a mental disorder.
The new study comes on the heels of another BUSPH study that found children exposed to PCE-contaminated drinking water before birth and in early childhood were more likely to use illegal drugs later in life. That study, also published in Environmental Health, found that people with high exposure levels during gestation and early childhood had a 1.5- to 1.6-fold increase in the risk of using two or more illegal drugs as teenagers or adults. Specific drugs for which increases were observed included cocaine, hallucinogens, club drugs, and Ritalin without a prescription.
Besides Aschengrau, the team of BUSPH researchers on the new study includes: Janice M. Weinberg, Patricia A. Janulewicz, Megan E. Romano, Lisa G. Gallagher, Michael R. Winter, Brett R. Martin, Veronica M. Vieira, Thomas F. Webster, Roberta F. White and David M. Ozonoff.
The research was funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Superfund Research Program.
The full study is available here: http://www.ehjournal.net/imedia/1134701935608720_article.pdf?random=730401
Submitted by: Lisa Chedekel