Research Projects

1. Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) Center

Summary: In 2012, the University of Chicago and icddr,b were jointly awarded a paired planning grant under the first phase of the NIH GEOHealth program. The award was granted to build a network of researchers to tackle the health impacts of air and water pollution and climate change with local partner institutions, including government agencies (Atomic Energy Commission, Ministries of Health, Environment and Labor), academic institutions (NIPSOM, BRAC University, NICVD, and BSMMU), NGOs (URB, GIZ, and Phulki), and private sectors (BGMEA).

2. Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS)

Summary: Globally, 200 million people including ~57 million in Bangladesh and ~17 million in the US, are chronically exposed to inorganic arsenic, and are at increased risk of the mortality, cancers, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and other non-malignant diseases. In collaboration with Columbia University, we established the Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study (HEALS)—a large, prospective cohort study based on individual-level data from a population exposed to a wide range of inorganic arsenic from drinking water in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Using a population-based sampling frame, we recruited 37,000 men and women (with >95% response rate) and collected detailed exposure and clinical data, as well as biological samples at baseline and biennially thereafter.

3. Molecular and clinical endocrine impacts of arsenic exposure in children

Summary: Arsenic has been reported to be a potent endocrine disruptor. Alterations in hormonal balance and gene deregulation in sensitive periods such as in in utero and early life may lead to clinical dysfunction or pathologies manifest in childhood and later life. The research has the following aims: (1) to evaluate whether in utero arsenic exposure and early childhood arsenic exposure are associated with thyroid and steroid hormones in children; (2) to evaluate whether in utero arsenic exposure and early childhood arsenic exposure are associated with gene expression profiles in children; and, (3) to longitudinally evaluate whether in utero arsenic exposure and early childhood arsenic exposure are associated with endocrine-related phenotypes in children.

4. Oral and Gut Microbiome, Environmental Exposure and NCDs

Summary: Humans host more microbial cells than their own cells and the microbiome is increasingly considered to affect human health and wellbeing. Since bacterial profiles are modifiable, we are investigating the determinants and consequences of microbial variability in different body fluids. Specifically, we aim to evaluate whether; 1) the gut and oral microbiome may have significant impact on arsenic methylation capacity, and 2) the differences in gut and oral microbiome composition could contribute to population variation in susceptibility to cardiovascular and other health effects of arsenic exposure and other environmental exposures.

5. Arsenic Exposure, Impaired Respiratory Function, and Immunosuppression

Summary: This study examines the effects of arsenic (As) exposure from drinking water on lung function and immune function in adults. We explored the possible protective role of vitamin D (vit. D) on lung function. The study was conducted among adults in the ongoing cohort in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Using the HEALS database, we have identified a total of 2,938 eligible participants for inclusion in the current study.

6. Gene Environment Multi phenotype Study (GEMS)

Summary: This study examines genetic and epigenetic factors related to arsenic and other environmental exposures as well as different clinical outcomes and their pre-clinical phenotypes in individuals in Araihazar, Bangladesh. The findings of this study will help us to identifying the gene-gene and gene-environment interactions that determine the onset of chronic disease, and afford us the opportunity to develop effective and sustainable disease prevention strategies for people in Bangladesh.

7. Consequences of Arsenic and Manganese Exposure on Adolescents

Summary: This study examines the neurocognitive and respiratory health effects of exposure to water arsenic and manganese (WAs and WMn, respectively) among adolescents in Araihazar, Bangladesh. Specifically, three questions are addressed. First, does the As-induced respiratory disease observed in adults also manifest itself in adolescents, and what are the possible physiologic mechanisms? Second, to what extent do associations between WAs and both lung and brain function reflects the effects of exposure in utero and infancy, periods of dramatic development for these systems? Third, are WAs and WMn associated with specific cognitive functions in addition to intelligence?

8. Pathology Based Tumor Registry, Bangladesh

(Collaboration between BSMMU and UChicago Research Bangladesh)

Summary: We initiated a pathology-based cancer registry in Bangladesh through a collaborative network of all histopathologists and cytopathologists, initially based in Dhaka city, followed by a nationwide network, with the ultimate target of establishing a regional and national-level population-based cancer registration system. For the last 4 years, we have collect data from different institutions including BSMMU, Dhaka Medical College, and Sir Salimullah Medical College hospitals. We are planning to expand our program throughout Dhaka.

9. Pilot Study of exposure to Air Pollution from Biomass Combustion and Preclinical Biomarkers among Non-smoking Women in Bangladesh.

Summary: The proposed study will examine the effects of biomass use on a number of novel markers of airway epithelial damage and inflammation related to cardiovascular and respiratory outcomes among adult females in Araihazar, Bangladesh. In this pilot study, we will recruit 120 non-smoking females who are exposed to water arsenic <5µg />L. The pilot study participants will be categorized into the following three groups (40 in each) depending on their biomass usage as follows: heavy biomass users, moderate biomass users, and non-biomass user subjects from households that do not use biomass for cooking.

10. Bangladesh Vitamin E and Selenium Trial (BEST)

Summary: We established the Bangladesh vitamin E and selenium Trial (BEST)—a 2×2 factorial randomized chemoprevention trial (RCT) for evaluating whether long-term vitamin E or selenium supplementation reduces the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC) and diabetes mellitus in uniquely exposed 7,000 individuals. This study was designed to identify, recruit, and randomize 7,000 individuals with arsenic-related skin lesions into 4 treatment arms: vitamin E only (100 IU/day), L-selenomethionine only (200 µg/day), both vitamin E and selenium, and placebo.

11. Synergistic immunosuppression by Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) and Arsenate (As)

Summary: The proposed study examines the joint effects of water arsenic (As) and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) from cigarettes smoke on lung function, inflammation and markers of immune function among adult males in Araihazar, Bangladesh. This study will add substantial new knowledge to the immunologic and pulmonary health effects of combined cigarette smoke (surrogate for PAH) and As exposures, which present a huge public health burden.

12. One-carbon metabolism, oxidative stress and arsenic toxicity in Bangladesh.

Summary: This project characterizes the impact of nutritional regulation of one-carbon metabolism on the inter-individual variability in As methylation. Glutathione (GSH), a key component of the primary antioxidant defense mechanism and the electron donor for As reduction, is synthesized from homocysteine, and this synthesis is regulated by intermediates of one-carbon metabolism.