Institute for Environmental Health Solutions
Metabolic Health Division
“I am honored by the opportunity to lead the Metabolic Health Division within the IEHS. I am very enthusiastic about this conceptually new project that seeks not only to identify the role of environmental exposure in etiology of metabolic disorders, but also to offer tools that will help to prevent or effectively threat these disorders. Environmental exposures to naturally occurring and man-made chemicals are undoubtedly contributing to the increasing prevalence of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These diseases, which until recently affected only or mainly adult and older populations, are now relatively common even among children and adolescent. An enormous effort has been made by U.S. EPA and NIEHS to characterize the associations between specific chemical exposures and metabolic disease; however, little is known about the underlying mechanisms and about factors that can modify the disease risk or the disease outcomes. While mitigation or elimination of the chemical exposures would provide the ultimate solution, finding new preventive and treatment strategies is needed, as thousands of new chemicals are introduced in the environment every year. The ultimate goal of this division is to improve health of individuals and population groups that developed or are at risk of developing metabolic disease as a result of environmental exposure, including the most vulnerable groups – pregnant women and children.”
About Dr. Styblo
Dr. Mirek Styblo is a professor in the Department of Nutrition with an adjunct appointment in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. He is a biochemist with expertise in nutritional biochemistry and biochemical toxicology, and possesses an extensive record of work in the area of environmental toxicology and disease. His research in this area has been continuously funded over the last 20 years by the U.S. EPA, NIEHS and the European Commission. He has been PI for several projects examining the association between chronic exposure to environmental pollutants (mainly arsenic) and metabolic disease, including two population studies in the Zimapan, Lagunera and Chihuahua regions in Mexico, and several laboratory studies exploring the molecular mechanisms of the diabetogenic effects of arsenic exposure. Dr. Styblo has participated in several U.S. EPA, NIEHS and NTP expert and advisory panels evaluating health risks associated with exposure to environmental arsenic. He also is the current vice-president of the Metal Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. His current research focuses on the role of diet and specific nutrients in modulation of the diabetogenic effects of prenatal and postnatal arsenic exposure, both in human populations and in genetically diverse collaborative cross (CC) mouse strains, and on the role of DNA methylation and microRNAs as potential mediators of these effects.
About the Division
In the first phase, the Metabolic Health Division will continue research of environmentally-induced disease using the existing resources (the human cohorts in Mexico and CC mouse strains). The goal is to identify the genetic underpinning of the metabolic disease associated with metal exposure during specific developmental windows (e.g., preconception, prenatal and postnatal) and to characterize the role of diet as a modifier of the disease risk or disease phenotype. Next, this research will be extended using data and biological samples collected in the human cohorts established by the other IEHS divisions. In addition, new mechanisms will be explored in collaboration with newly-hired IEHS investigators, including the potential role of epigenetic age or transposon mobility in the etiology of environmentally-induced metabolic disease or in mechanisms underlying this disease. Ultimately, this research is expected to provide novel data on factors that determine the susceptibility to metabolic diseases associated with environmental exposure, providing new targets for intervention and treatment.