University of Vermont

College of Medicine

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

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Environmental Pathology Research

mouse lung

The Environmental Pathology Program in the College of Medicine has expanded considerably over the past several years in terms of participating faculty, extramural grant funding, graduate and postdoctoral trainees, and use of central core facilities. The primary focus of the research effort is the effect of environmental agents on cell signaling pathways leading to changes in cell phenotype, subsequent alterations in organ structure and function, and eventually disease.

Faculty research in Environmental Pathology is supported by a wide variety of private and public agencies. A central source of support for graduate students, medical students, and postdoctoral fellows (MDs, PhDs, and DVMs) is an Environmental Pathology Training Grant (T32 award)from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), funded since 1981. We are currently one of four NIEHS-recognized programs in medical schools and have supported a number of medical students and fellows who have become independent investigators in translational research. Recently faculty in this group attained funding for a National Institutes of Health COBRE (Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence) grant in Translational Research in Lung Biology and Disease and a Program Project Grant entitled "Cell Signaling in Epithelial Injury, Proliferation, and Fibrosis" from the NHLBI.

The research interests in Environmental Pathology can be grouped into three broad areas:

  1. Environmental Lung Disease
  2. Cell Signaling in Proliferation, Injury, and Apoptosis
  3. DNA Damage/Genetic Toxicology

The primary aim of the group is to delineate the specific molecular and pathological effects of physiologically relevant doses of environmental agents on specific target cells in the lung and other organs. Over time, genetic and epigenetic changes in cell phenotype elicited by environmental agents lead to tissue remodeling, alterations in organ structure and function, and disease (Figure 1). Cell culture, animal model systems and human material are used to test specific hypotheses with the aim of identifying crucial pathways that may represent therapeutic targets in man. Contemporary methods in molecular biology, cell biology, and organ physiology are integrated into research programs that support and are facilitated by central core facilities for Flow Cytometry, DNA analysis, Cell Imaging, and Transgenic Mice. In "Environmental Lung Disease", research interests include asthma, fibrosis, and cancer.

Research Focus

The Environmental Pathology Program is integrated with many other research endeavors in the College of Medicine and the University of Vermont. The program co-sponsors a well attended seminar program with the Cell Signaling Program, a broad initiative sponsored by joint funding from the Vermont Cancer Center (VCC) and the Departments of Pathology, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and Molecular Pharmacology. Members of the Environmental Pathology Program also participate in other research programs in the VCC, have joint appointments in other Departments, and act as thesis advisors for graduate students in Cell and Molecular Biology (CMB), Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Molecular Pharmacology, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and Biochemistry. Program scientists serve on a wide variety of administrative committees within the College of Medicine and University concerning research and graduate education, including the Graduate Education Committee, the CMB steering committee, and institutional review boards addressing animal and laboratory protocols. The faculty is cohesive, interactive, and dedicated to improving the research and training climate within the College of Medicine and the University as a whole.

Training Activities

Maintenance of a competitive research program requires a strong commitment to the training of graduate students, medical students, and postdoctoral fellows. While members of the Environmental Pathology program participate in multiple graduate programs (e.g. Cell and Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Molecular Pharmacology, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, and Biochemistry), a primary source of support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows (MDs, PhDs, and DVMs) is an Environmental Pathology Training Grant (T32 award) from the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). This training grant, funded since 1981, presently supports seven graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows in laboratories from several departments within the College. Members of the faculty also teach in basic science courses in the medical curriculum. In addition, the faculty of the Environmental Pathology Program are mentors for undergraduates through HELiX, independent research courses, and summer fellowships. In summary, the faculty of the Environmental Pathology have strongly supported institutional efforts to improve undergraduate, graduate and medical student education in the biomedical sciences, as well as postdoctoral training in basic and clinical research. Indeed, because of their record in mentoring students and fellows, several of the laboratories within the program are widely recognized throughout the University as fertile training grounds for trainees in the sciences.

Last modified November 25 2013 10:54 AM