RTI International to study childhood exposures as part of NIH Grant

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – RTI International will partner with New York University, New York University School of Medicine, and Dartmouth College to better understand the early childhood exposures and risks as part of National Institutes of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.

The seven-year grant initiative, sets out to understand how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development – from conception through early childhood – influences the health of children and adolescents.

ECHO will focus on four key areas: obesity; airway conditions such as asthma and allergies; neurodevelopment, including diseases such as autism; and prenatal and postnatal outcomes, such as birth defects.

RTI will support New York University, New York University School of Medicine and Dartmouth College as they each lead a pediatric cohort. ECHO is funding existing pediatric cohorts with a goal of enrolling more than 50,000 children from diverse racial, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds to become part of the ECHO consortium. These cohort studies will analyze existing data as well as follow the children over time to address the early environmental origins of at least one of ECHO’s health outcome areas. Each cohort will participate with the others to combine data that are collected in a standardized way across the consortium.

  • In the initial phase of work, RTI researchers will assist New York University study investigators with data analysis and publications that focus on the ways in which children’s environmental exposures – psychosocial as well as chemical – early in life impact later risk for obesity and neurodevelopmental outcomes. In subsequent work, RTI researchers will conduct metabolomics analysis of bio-specimens to delineate the correlates of obesity and neurodevelopmental outcomes in adolescence, as well as to relate these outcomes to early life experience. Overall, this work will extend the Family Life Project, a large, longitudinal study of 1,292 children and their families, who live in and around small towns in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in counties with high poverty rates. The Family Life Project, which began in 2003, is a collaboration between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Pennsylvania State University, and New York University.
  • RTI will also conduct metabolomics analysis for relating exposure to health outcomes as part of the NYU Children’s Environmental Health Study. The study will monitor the health of nearly a thousand pregnant mothers and their children to determine how early-life exposure to contaminants impacts the children’s early growth and development through age 2. Another study, known as the Infant Development and Environment Study II, or TIDES, is monitoring the health of 717 mothers and their children in four cities: Rochester, New York; San Francisco; Seattle; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. All children participating in TIDES have been closely monitored since before birth, and the new funding will extend their monitoring through age 9 for any changes in risk of obesity, heart disease, and such metabolic conditions as insulin resistance, loss of kidney function, and uncontrolled blood pressure.
  • Additionally, RTI will support the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study (NHBCS)—a research project led by Dartmouth College that since 2009 has been investigating how various factors such as contaminants in the environment affect the health of pregnant women and their children in New Hampshire and Vermont. RTI will determine the link between exposure and health outcomes via the metabotype of biospecimens and particulate matter measurements collected with the RTI-developed MicroPEM, a personal exposure monitor.

Experiences during sensitive developmental windows can have long-lasting effects on the health of children. These experiences encompass a broad range of exposures, from air pollution and chemicals in our neighborhoods, to societal factors such as stress, to individual behaviors like sleep and diet. These exposures may act through any number of biological processes such as changes in the expression of genes or development of the immune system.

As previously announced, RTI in collaboration with the Bloomberg School will form ECHO’s Data Analysis Center and will lead one of ECHO’s six Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource (CHEAR) Lab Hubs that will be used to provide the extramural research community access to laboratory and data analyses to include evaluation of environmental exposures in children’s health research.

Highlights

  • RTI International will partner with New York University, New York University School of Medicine, and Dartmouth College, to better understand the early childhood exposures and risks as part of National Institutes of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program
  • The seven-year grant initiative, sets out to understand how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development – from conception through early childhood – influences the health of children and adolescents