Michigan State University Superfund Research Program
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MSU Superfund Research Program Newsletter

The MSU Superfund Research Program is pleased to send you the fourth edition of our electronic newsletter. Please take a moment to read over our recent activities.  

For more information on the MSU Superfund Research Program, please visit:

In This Newsletter:

Research Spotlight: Dr. Stephen Boyd, MSU
Superfund Investigators and Trainees Successful at 55th Annual SOT Meeting
Introduction to Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) Modeling Short Course, May 18-20, 2016
MSU Computational and Systems Biology Journal Club
Dr. Kaminski Participates in SOT Global Senior Scholars Exchange Program
SU Superfund Virtual Lab Meeting
Research Translation Core and MDHSS Teach About Safe Fish at Teddy Bear Picnic

Research Spotlight

Stephen Boyd, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Dr. Timothy Zacharewski, Ph.D., MSU
Dr. Stephen Boyd, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences at Michigan State University, is PI for Project 6 of the MSU Superfund Research program: Geochemical Controls on the Sorption, Bioavailability, Formation and Long-term Environmental Fate of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-Dioxins (PCDDs).

Understanding the fate and behavior of persistent organic pollutants in the environment is needed to determine the potential risks of exposures to humans and wildlife. Polychlorinated dibenzo dioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs) are a group of persistent organic pollutants of natural and anthropogenic origin that resist degradation in the environment and poses exceptionally low water solubility. Therefore PCDD/Fs are strongly and extensively bound to soil and sediment particles. Sorbed PCDD/Fs are distributed among the primary component solids termed geosorbents and include char-like carbonaceous materials, amorphous organic matter, and clays. Since PCDD/Fs are also highly resistant to decomposition, sorption is a primary determinant of their environmental fates and impacts. Importantly, binding or sorption to soil/sediment particles may modify the availability of PCDD/Fs for uptake by organisms including humans and wildlife.

Currently, estimates of PCDD/F bioavailability in soils/sediments are few and inconsistent; hence most risk assessment models for exposure to environmental PCDD/Fs make generic assumptions of 100% bioavailability, irrespective of soil/sediment characteristics.  Thus, there is a significant need for scientific data determining the bioavailabilty of PCDD/Fs in establishing better models of risk assessment.  To address this scientific need, our group is determining the sorption characteristics of dioxin by several component geosorbents including silica, montmorillonite clays, humus (amorphous soil/sediment organic matter) and chars. Among these geosorbents chars show the highest affinity for dioxin. These high surface area carbonaceous materials occur naturally in soils and sediments, but at relatively low levels (4 to 9% of the total organic carbon). We used similar man-made materials (referred to collectively as “black carbon”) such as biochars that are produced in various biofuels technologies and activated carbons. These materials are readily available and excellent candidates because of their high surface areas (1000 m2/g), and substantial pore volumes (~500 uL/g) which exist predominately as micropores (<2mm), ranging from about 50% to over 90% of the total pore volume. These pores are just large enough to accommodate PCDD/Fs which seem to resist desorption once occupied. Activated carbons have already begun to be used in field trials and a limited number of successful remediation projects based on observations that they reduce aqueous phase concentrations and bioaccumulations by simple aquatic organisms and earthworms. However, the issue of whether reduced bioavailability, especially to humans and wildlife, is actually realized remains an open question.

We have conducted bioavailability experiments using a mammalian (mouse) model using immunological endpoints.  Activated carbon was used to sequester TCDD for the same bioavailability assessment using this mammalian model. In selecting an appropriate commercially available activated carbon, one can hypothesize that sorption of TCDD to black carbons should be strongest for pores that are just large enough to allow entry of TCDD. Thus an activated carbon dominated with micropores (>90% of the total pore volume) was selected. Contrary to the high bioavailability of TCDD sequestered by silica or clay, sequestration by microporous activated carbon rendered TCDD biologically unavailable to mice.

Further studies are planned to evaluate other black carbons with differing pore structures. These results do support the concept of using black carbon sorbent amendments to soils/sediments for the purpose of sequestering target contaminants in forms with substantially lowered bioavailability to mammals.

Superfund Investigators and Trainees Successful at 55th Annual SOT Meeting

Investigators and trainees of the MSU Superfund Program were highly honored at this year's 55th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
Dr. Timothy Zacharewski (PI of Project 3) received the Graduate Student Mentor Award from the Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section.
Natalia Kovalova, training with Dr. Norbert Kaminski (Project 1), received the third place Best Student Presentation from the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section for her abstract, "Role of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor (AHR) Polymorphisms in TCDD-Mediated Biological Activity in the Human B Cell."
Jinpeng Li, training with Dr. Norbert Kaminski (Project 1), received the American Association of Chinese in Toxicology and Charles River Best Abstract Award, second place, as well as the third place Best Student Presentation from the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section, for his abstract, "2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo- p -dioxin (TCDD)-Mediated Alterations of EBF1 in Impaired Early Human B Cell Development."
Rance Nault, training with Dr. Timothy Zacharewski (Project 3), won the first place Graduate Student Research Award from the Molecular and Systems Biology Specialty Section, as well as the 1st place Carl C. Smith Graduate Student Award from the Mechanisms Specialty Section for his abstract, "Pyruvate Kinase Isoform Switching and Hepatic Metabolic Reprogramming by the Environmental Contaminant 2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)." Rance also received a Graduate Student Travel Award from the SOT.

Introduction to Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) Modeling Short Course was Held May 18-20, 2016

The Institute for Integrative Toxicology hosted an intensive 3 day short course May 18-20, 2016 on "Introduction to Physiologically Based Pharmacokinetic (PBPK) Modeling". 

The short course covered the principles of physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling and introduced the application of this technique in chemical health risk assessment and drug development.

Upon completion of this course, participants were able to:
  • Understand the fundamental concepts underlying PBPK modeling
  • Describe the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and elimination of chemicals using mass balance differential equations
  • Build PBPK models to simulate tissue dosimetry using Berkeley Madonna®
  • Appreciate the application of PBPK models in human health risk/safety assessment and drug development

The course comprised lectures and hands-on computer simulation exercises. The IIT offered this course through the Research Translation Core within the MSU-SRP. The course instructors were Qiang Zhang, Emory University, Sudin Bhattacharya, MSU, and Rory B. Conolly from the US EPA. 

MSU Computational and Systems Biology Journal Club

The MSU Superfund Program’s Training Core is pleased to announce the launch of a Computational and Systems Biology (CSB) Journal Club for the MSU community and external members of the MSU Superfund Program. This Journal Club will be coordinated by Dr. Sudin Bhattacharya, Institute for Integrative Toxicology, MSU.

Mathematical modeling and computational approaches integrating large -omic data sets are playing vital roles in 21st century biology, and have the potential to transform nearly every branch of the biosciences. In this journal club, which will meet once a month, they will study examples of the application of CSB tools to a variety of biological problems. The inaugural session was held on Tuesday April 5, 2016 and a review article titled “Next-Generation Genomics: an Integrative Approach” (Hawkins et al, Nat. Rev. Genet. 2010): was discussed. The second session was on Tuesday, April 26 and Rance Nault, doctoral student training with Dr. Timothy Zacharewski (Project 3), presented the article, " “A Genome-wide CRISPR Screen in Primary Immune Cells to Dissect Regulatory Networks” by Parnas et al (Cell, 2015):

The Journal Club will continue through the summer on the following dates: 
  • Thursday, June 2, 3 - 4 p.m. Jay Goodman presented, "Some People are Rats, but are any of them Large Mice?"
  • Tuesday, July 5, 12 - 1 p.m.
  • Tuesday, August 2, 12 - 1 p.m.
The July 5 and August 2 slots are open and they are currently seeking volunteer presenters. Possible presenters are encouraged to suggest relevant publications from your own areas of research, and to volunteer to lead the discussion during those sessions (external members of the MSU Superfund group can also lead presentations through GoToMeeting). These publications could either have a significant emphasis on computational approaches or mathematical modeling, or present data that might benefit from incorporation of computation or modeling – the discussion will focus on how data and computation might be best integrated. Works in progress from your labs are also welcome. For more information, please contact Sudin Bhattacharya,
Dr. Norbert Kaminski, Project 1, gave a short course at Khon Kaen University which is located in the city of Khon Kaen, Thailand in early 2016. The title of the course was "Principles of Immunotoxicology". This was part of the Society of Toxicology Global Senior Scholars Exchange Program. Dr. Sunisa Chaiklieng, Associate Professor, Dept. Environmental Health Science, Faculty of Public Health, Khon Kaen University, spent 8 weeks in Dr. Kaminski's lab in the spring of 2015 and then Dr. Kaminski traveled to Thailand in early 2016 to engage in teaching and explore research collaborations.

MSU Superfund Virtual Lab Meeting

The Training Core of the MSU Superfund program successfully held three virtual laboratory meetings this past spring. The MSU SRP Virtual Lab meetings feature a different project or core at each meeting. One or two individuals (PI, graduate student, post doc) from each project/core makes the presentation at each meeting. The Training Core’s overall goal with these meetings is to help the graduate students and post docs working on our projects/cores enhance their communication skills and to get to know each other better. Another goal is to promote "cross training" of our trainees across the many disciplines involved in our SRP program. Therefore, PIs are encouraged to provide opportunities for these individuals to present their research during the “Lab Meetings.” Presentations this spring were: 
  • February 23, 2016: Community Engagement Core, Lead Presenter: Jim Dearing
  • March 22, 2016: Computational Core, Lead Presenter: Sudin Bhattacharya
  • April 19, 2016: Project 1 and Project 6: Collaboration Regarding Bioavailability of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p Dioxins (PCDDs)

Research Translation Core and MDHHS Teach About Safe Fish at Teddy Bear Picnic

In collaboration with the MI Department of Human Health Services (MDHHS), the RTC organized a booth for the Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine’s annual “Teddy Bear Hospital and Picnic” on “Eat Safe Fish."  

The Teddy Bear picnic is a free event with fun activities for the children including playing with the Women’s Soccer Team, cheerleading with the MSU cheerleading team, face painting, balloon animals, relay races, a visit from Sparty and much more. This event also encourages children to bring a favorite teddy bear or stuffed animal for a check-up at the Teddy Bear Hospital, a mock clinic staffed by physicians and students from MSU’s health colleges. The annual event was originally created to help children overcome the fear of “going to the doctor” in a fun, safe environment, and has evolved into an outreach program by which the College of Human Medicine and local health partners can connect with children and parents concerning pediatric health issues.

Our booth focused on educating the health benefits of fish consumption and minimizing risks posed by environmental contaminants. This was done by providing informational pamphlets from the MDHSS on eating fish safely and personal interactions. While parents were learning about health benefits and risks, the children were provided with activities, such as fishing in a pretend pond. We also shared with the parents a beta version of the mobile app on fish advisories the RTC is developing to receive feedback for further developments.
Dr. Brad Upham, Research Translation Core, entertaining children with the toy fish pond. 
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