Research & Practice

One of the primary questions Department of Environmental and Occupational Health researchers seek to answer is how exposure to environmental agents may make people more susceptible to acute and chronic human disease. Toward that end, our current research is primarily focused in three areas: cardiovascular toxicology, free radical biochemical toxicology, and computational and risk assessment approaches to environmental health.

Research Strengths

Pulmonary biology

  • Stem cells and stem cell-based therapies in environmentally induced lung injury
  • Nitric oxide (NO) and oxidants in acute lung injury
  • Metal toxicology
  • Gene/environment interaction in human severe asthma and silicosis

Cardiovascular toxicology

  • Molecular toxicology of arsenic 
  • Effect of hormones, drugs, and environmental agents on gene expression
  • Role of copper and oxidants in vascular dysfunction in preeclampsia
  • Zinc homeostasis in vascular dysfunction in hemorrhagic shock

Free radical biochemistry

  • Phospholipid signaling in cell death pathways
  • NO interactions with cellular components 
  • Redox status and injury and repair
  • Antioxidant activity of pulmonary epithelial and endothelial proteins

Carcinogenesis and mutagenesis and biomarkers of cancer

  • Development and validation of cancer early detection 
  • Molecular epidemiology of human cancer including biomarkers of genotoxicity and susceptibility
  • Mutational spectra of carcinogens 

Computational toxicology and risk assessment

  • Computational study of large-scale protein motions
  • Study of binding and dynamics and affinities
  • Toxicological assessment databases
  • Estimate and conveyance of risk in environmental health

Research Highlights

  • Study of the impact of low levels of arsenic in drinking water and how it causes blood vessels to change their appearance
  • Study of the impact of aflatoxin, the most potent natural liver carcinogen, on liver cancer risk and world food trade and development of a mathematical programming model to estimate the impacts of different global aflatoxin standards
  • Study of the role of trace metals such as zinc, copper, and iron in health and disease, especially understanding their contributing roles in toxicity of nanoparticles and other components of air pollution 
  • Partnerships with individuals and communities to identify the most pressing environmental problems and empower people to develop action plans for sustainable solutions for a healthy environment

Collaborating Partners

  • Pitt Public Health Departments
  • Pitt School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy
  • Pitt McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine and Centers for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, Biologic Imaging, and Pharmacogenomics
  • University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute 
  • Pittsburgh Development Center 
  • VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System
  • Magee Womens Research Institute