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Arnold School of Public Health

Environmental Toxicology Project

The overall goal of the Oceans and Human Health Center on Climate Change Interactions (OHHC2I), Environmental Toxicology Project is to study the detailed mechanistic role of both microplastics and microcystins in causing long term pathophysiology changes in the liver, microbiome, kidney, brain axis, and ovary. We have preliminary data that shows the exposure of microcystins in rodent models of existing chronic nonalcoholic fatty liver disease exacerbate liver pathology leading to enhanced inflammation fibrosis in both kidney and livers. We also found significant alterations in the gut microbiome following microcystin exposure that led to gut leaching and portal endotoxemia, a recipe for systemic inflammation and organ damage via pattern recognition receptors (TLRs and P2X7rs). In addition, microplastics may contain multiple endocrine disrupting chemicals and microcystins have recently been reported to exhibit endocrine disrupting effects, both of which potentially lead to reproductive dysfunctions. Our research group has been using the microfluidic technology to make a chip that simulates reproductive organs which better enables us to screen and test the toxicity of environmental chemicals. HAB toxins associated with cyanobacteria are known to produce toxins that affect the liver, kidney, gut microbiome, and brain axis. Disinfection of the HAB toxin in water treatment may lead to the production of new disinfectant by product which may adversely affect health and well-being.