A SUNY Oswego team's groundbreaking research on the effects
of low levels of lead in children's bloodstreams broke through the stiff
competition for federal stimulus funds and brought a job to campus in January.
Kristen Roosa ’09,
a biology major, now works full time in Snygg Hall as a member of the research
team led by Dr. Brooks Gump in Oswego's
psychology department. Dr. James MacKenzie of biological sciences and Dr.
Kestas Bendinskas of chemistry also take part.
They are working to confirm their initial findings that lead
adversely affects the young cardiovascular system's response to psychological
stress and to investigate the complex biochemical interplay that is causing
Gump received $96,895 from the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences for his team's project when additional federal
research funds became available last year through the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act -- also known as the stimulus package. In addition to Roosa's
position, which will end in August, the grant funds the analysis of 100
children's blood samples at the National
Center for Glycomics and
Glycoproteomics at Indiana
Last year, preliminary results of the Oswego project appeared in news stories
around the world when the United Press International and Reuters wire services
reported on a paper that MacKenzie presented at the annual meeting of the
American Physiological Society. Roosa was among his co-authors, because she
began working with him on the project while she was still an undergraduate.
Roosa, of Weedsport, said she plans to enroll in a doctoral
program in the fall and pursue a career in the kind of work she has been doing
with MacKenzie, Gump and Bendinskas.
Her principal responsibility at Oswego over the next several months is
analyzing samples of blood for apolipoprotein E, a protein that correlates with
cardiovascular disease risk. Earlier blood studies showed that this protein is
related to lead concentrations.
Lead and human health
Lead is an environmental pollutant that has found its way
into organisms, including humans, in significant quantities since the
Industrial Revolution. It has long been known to inhibit children's mental
development, if present at high enough levels, and has known associations with
a variety of physiological and neurological problems, including high blood
pressure, the researchers said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has set 10 micrograms
per deciliter as the threshold for harmful effects of lead in children.
"We are finding effects at 1 microgram per
deciliter," Bendinskas said. Gump said that the adverse effects show up in
their study as potentially harmful cardiovascular responses to psychological
stress, which the children experience while performing challenging computer
researchers' work is the first to show any effect in humans at such low levels,
which are considered normal for people in American and European cities today.
The work therefore has "potentially broad public health
ramifications," Gump noted.
Oswego Children's Study
Gump's project ties into the Oswego Children's Study, a
two-decade-long study at SUNY Oswego that has collected wide-ranging data on
more than 200 children from the greater Oswego
area from before they were born to adolescence.
It began with the purpose of studying the subtle
neurobehavioral effects of prenatal exposure to environmental pollutants, such
as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs; mercury; and lead. The study continues
monitoring these children and is extraordinary for its length and
comprehensiveness, examining many variables beyond exposure to environmental
toxicants, including geographic, sociological, economic and other factors.
— Julie Harrison Blissert
Kristen Roosa ’09 has a full-time position with the SUNY Oswego
interdisciplinary research team that is investigating the effects of low levels
of lead in children's blood on their cardiovascular health. A grant made
possible by the federal stimulus package helps to support the project and funds
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