Fry and Wright present at area toxicology conferences
Members of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health faculty were among the presenters at two conferences in the Chapel Hill, N.C., area in September, both sponsored by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The third international Toxicogenomics Integrated with Environmental Sciences (TIES) http://eseconf.sph.unc.edu/TIES2011/ conference was held Sept. 15-16 in Chapel Hill, and the North Carolina Chapter of the Society of Toxicology (NCSOT) http://www.toxicology.org/isot/rc/nc/index.asp meeting, organized by the UNC public health school’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, was held Sept. 22 at NIEHS offices in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
Nearly 200 biologists, toxicologists, statisticians and bioinformatics experts gathered at the TIES conference to discuss research that characterizes and predicts molecular responses to environmental exposures.
Among the speakers was UNC biostatistics professor Fred Wright, PhD, who provided a perspective on how expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) can inform the study of disease and toxic susceptibility. He explained that eQTLs are genomic regions that affect the activity level of various genes and gave examples of how this information can be used to narrow down disease-causing genes or find genes that may make some individuals more susceptible to toxic exposure.
Rebecca Fry, PhD, assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering, reported on her work using gene-expression analysis in human subjects to better understand arsenic. Arsenic can both promote tumor progression and, in the form of arsenic trioxide, can work against some forms of cancer in patients with certain gene expression patterns.
Fry also presented at the NCSOT meeting, reporting on her recent survey of wells in North Carolina. Wells provide water to 2.3 million people in the state, and Fry’s research showed that the most contaminated of them contained nearly 20 times the safe level of arsenic. She also reported on her study of well contamination in Mexico.