“Not Many Institutions Offer All That We Offer”

In Fall 2015, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), awarded $9.5M to the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Medical School to establish a national NIEHS Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR). The grant is being used to facilitate research in environmental exposures and subsequent effects on children’s health.
U-M will serve as one of six national research hubs as part of the new CHEAR Program, called M-CHEAR. The program will be directed by John Meeker, professor of environmental health sciences and associate dean for research at the U-M School of Public Health. M-CHEAR services will include:

• A Targeted Analysis Resource,
• An Untargeted Analysis Resource,
• A Biological Response Indicators Resource,
• And a Developmental Core.

Co-PI on the grant, Dana Dolinoy, an Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and Nutritional Sciences at the School of Public Health, and director of the Biological Response Indicator Resource, credited the success of the application to the substantial assets that are available at U-M through the Biomedical Research Core Facilities (BRCF) and other shared resources.

She explained that the University’s application was remarkable because of the resources available in our Cores and centers. “It’s the breadth and individuality of our Cores: if you think about the essential dogma of biology (DNA transcribed to RNA, and RNA translated to protein), our team is very unique in that it offers a holistic approach that reflects the full spectrum.”

Dr. Dolinoy said that other competing universities have capabilities in many of the resources, but the University of Michigan was distinctive due to our capacity to offer all of these things at M-CHEAR. “There are not many institutions that offer all that we can offer.”

Multiple BRCF Cores, including the DNA Sequencing Core, Epigenomics Core, Metabolomics Core, and Proteomics & Peptide Synthesis Core were all included on the proposal.

“We were the only ones to put some of these assays on our proposals that aren’t offered many other places in the country,” Dolinoy said. “In particular, the really high-level next generation sequencing analysis of epigenetics, led by [Core Directors] Maria (Ken) Figueroa, Bob Lyons and lipidomics, and untargeted metabolomics, led by [Core Director] Charles Burant.”

The Epigenomics Core offers hydroxymethylation, chromatic modification (ChIP-Seq), DNA methylation services, and more.

Applicants to the CHEAR program will propose to utilize the Cores nationwide, including M-CHEAR, giving researchers across the country access to expertise and facilities at internal rates, with associated coordinating and data analysis centers for people to collect an abundance of data on environmental health in the interest of creating a massive repository.

A pilot study to test M-CHEAR’s infrastructure will be conducted with the Michigan Mother Infant Pairs (MMIP) Birth Cohort, led by Vasantha Padmanabhan, M.S., Ph.D., professor, Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, OB-Gyn, and Molecular & Integrative Physiology. The study focuses on early exposures to a number of different metals and mechanisms of how they affect birth outcomes, including DNA methylation, lipidomics, and metabolomics.

For more information, visit M-CHEAR online. The CHEAR Data Coordinating Center is expected to begin accepting proposals from researchers in spring/summer 2016. Look for more articles on M-CHEAR in the coming months.

Update: Dr. Dolinoy was selected to be the new director of the Epigenomics Core, as of February 1st, 2017.