Genetic Study to Understand Linkage Between Lead Exposure and Children’s Intellectual Development in India; Possible Model for Broader Gene/Environment/Health Research
Laurel, MD, January 24, 2007 – BioServe, a leading provider of rapid, economical processing and analyses of genomic content from biological samples, has been selected to work with scientists from the Harvard and University of Michigan Schools of Public Health on a landmark study aimed at understanding how genetics and environmental lead pollution interact to affect children’s intellectual and behavioral functioning. Under terms of the agreement, BioServe will perform DNA purification and genotyping on tissue samples collected from 750 school children in Chennai (formerly Madras), India who have been exposed to lead pollutants. The goal is to help the investigators determine whether genetic factors predispose children to–or protect them from–certain toxic effects.
Although it is well-known that high lead levels in the body can negatively affect intelligence, this is the first study in India to measure that effect. The study is unusual in that (1) it will also measure how lead exposure affects both visual-spatial-motor skills and aggressive behavior and (2) it is one of the first studies to research how individual genetic makeup may modify the neurobehavioral impact of lead exposure.
BioServe was chosen to perform the genetic work because of the company’s reputation for highly advanced genomic analysis, industry experience, and its state-of-the-art facilities in India.
“This study represents a cutting edge research collaboration that will gain insights into a global environmental health problem,” said Howard Hu M.D., M.P.H., Sc.D, the principle investigator. Hu is Chair and Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Adjunct Professor of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the Harvard School of Public Health.
“India and other countries are undergoing rapid urbanization, population shifts to cities, industrialization and a steep increase in the use of fossil fuels for energy and transportation –but population exposures to newer pollution hazards remain understudied,” Hu explained. “Understanding the interrelationship of environmental hazards, genetics, and health will provide the information that is needed to formulate regulatory policies, prioritize public health controls, and educate the medical community and the public on how best to mitigate particular environmental exposures. Progress on these fronts would be slow or impossible without public/private partnerships like the one involving Harvard, the University of Michigan, and Bioserve.”
The current study could serve as a model for future investigation into the relationship of genetics to other environmental hazards and diseases. Dr. Hu’s lab is also studying the relationship of lead exposure to such diseases as Alzheimers and diabetes, and the health impacts of other metallic pollutants.
According to Rama Modali, Chief Executive Officer of BioServe, “We are excited to play an important role in this landmark health study. Our genotyping studies will contribute to the Indian and international biomedical communities’ further understanding of the dynamics between lead exposure and chronic diseases, as well as genetic polymorphisms that increase the risk of environmentally induced disease.”
The overall study, now in the third of three years, is funded with a grant from The John E. Fogarty International Center– the international component of the National Institutes of Health– which addresses global health challenges through innovative and collaborative research and training programs. Results are expected in about a year.