The article below first appeared in the April 2022 Environmental Factor newsletter here.
BY JENNIFER HARKER
One NIEHS grant recipient is taking air pollution research to a new level and expanding knowledge about how climate change-related weather events such as wildfires can affect maternal and infant health.
Rima Habre, Sc.D., from the University of Southern California (USC), integrates diverse data on individual exposures and lifestyle factors to bolster her research, and her team incorporates innovative technology to capture complex personal exposures with greater precision.
“My work is showing that we can go beyond the broad generalizations and assumptions at the population level and contextualize our science at the individual level,” said Habre during her virtual NIEHS Keystone Science Lecture on March 9.
Air pollution can come from outdoor air, indoor sources, and other exposures posed by our individual behaviors, according to Habre. Accounting for all of those exposure sources helps scientists advance precision environmental health, she added. That research framework — a focal point for NIEHS — incorporates analysis of an individual’s exposures and genetic makeup to better understand disease risk and aid prevention efforts.
“That is exactly what many in the biomedical research community sought to promote when the Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (GEI) was developed in 2006,” noted David Balshaw, Ph.D., head of the NIEHS Exposure, Response, and Technology Branch. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health launched GEI to expand research into gene-environment interactions and their influence on human disease.
Habre’s work to refine and strengthen personal exposure analysis is critical to efforts at NIEHS and beyond to advance precision environmental health, according to Balshaw.