New Haven, Conn. -- Two talented young Yale scientists who are pursuing careers in environmental health research have been named recipients of this year's eight Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Awards by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
Yale ONES Award recipients are Sven-Eric Jordt, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Yale School of Medicine, and Michelle L. Bell, an assistant professor of environmental health in the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences.
"The ONES Program is designed to provide a strong foundation for outstanding scientists who are in the early, formative stages of their careers," said program director David A. Schwartz, M.D. "These grants will assist the scientists in launching innovative research programs that focus on human disease and the influence of the environment." The grants provide five years of support to early career scientists.
The NIEHS granted a total of for $3.6 million to this year's eight awardees. The program is a key element of the NIEHS 2006 Strategic Plan, a five-year blueprint for identifying and funding promising young scientists engaged in new research initiatives that will address the diseases and environmental exposures that are likely to have the greatest impact on human health.
Each of the awardees will focus on a specific human disease or condition as it relates to a specific environmental exposure, and work to link the effects of these exposures to the cause, moderation or prevention of environmentally-related diseases.
Sven-Eric Jordt's research will focus on the way hazardous environmental irritants interact with chemosensory nerve endings in the airways, eyes and skin and contribute to hypersensitivity and chronic inflammation in asthma, allergy, chronic cough and dermatitis.
Recently, Jordt discovered that acrolein, a noxious environmental substance present in cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust and chemical smog, activates a receptor specifically found in nerve fibers that sense chemical irritation and painful stimuli. In his proposed research, Jordt will investigate how this and other receptors are activated, and how activation leads to irritation and inflammation. He hopes the studies will contribute to the development of new anti-inflammatory therapies.
Michelle Bell will study the relationship between outdoor concentrations of ozone, a form of oxygen that is a primary component of urban smog, and the incidence of respiratory disease and death in exposed populations.
Her ONES project will involve the development of methods to address complex questions regarding ozone and health: how ozone affects cardiovascular and respiratory hospital admissions, whether deaths are advanced by ozone by days or years, the interaction between ozone and other pollutants such as particles, and whether some racial or socioeconomic groups are disproportionately affected by ozone pollution. Her results will be directly beneficial to policy-makers in setting ozone regulations.
"These scientists will focus on diseases for which there seems to be a strong environmental component, as well as exposures that hold the most promise for clarifying their underlying causes," said Schwartz. "This knowledge will improve our ability to identify important environmental hazards and improve the clinical outcome of environmentally related diseases."
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health. For more information about the NIEHS Strategic Plan, see: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/external/plan2006/home.htm.
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