As environmental toxicologists, we are interested in the effects of environmental stressors, in particular chemical pollutants, on organism health. An excellent overview of the importance of pollutants for health globally can be found here (summary infographic) and here (review article).
In the Meyer lab, we work on a wide range of stressors and contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ultraviolet radiation, nanoparticles, mycotoxins, and complex environmental mixtures such as those found at Superfund sites, indoor and outdor air pollution, and mining-associated pollution. We focus in particular on those that cause DNA damage, and have a special interest in mitochondrial DNA damage and chemicals that affect mitochondria (dubbed “mitotoxicants”; see Mitochondria and Mitochondrial DNA). We use a wide range of methods for our studies, including biochemical, toxicological, and microscopic tools. However, we specialize in molecular, genetic, and genomic approaches. We measure DNA damage and DNA repair using a quantitative PCR assay (Gonzalez-Hunt et al., 2016; Meyer, 2010).
We use C. elegans and mammalian cell culture for these studies, and also work collaboratively with other groups to extend these studies to other species and systems. In the images to the right, dopaminergic neurons in the head of C. elegans can be observed because green fluorescent protein is expressed in those neurons (photos by Maxwell Leung; this transgenic strain was developed by Richard Nass). We are testing whether environmental exposures that cause mitochondrial toxicity lead to degeneration of these neurons, as does exposure to the laboratory model chemical 6-hydroxydopamine. Degeneration of these neurons in people causes Parkinson’s Disease, and the cause of most cases of Parkinson’s Disease is not understood.
International scientific societies that study environmental toxicology and environmental health:
- Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC)
- Society of Toxicology (SOT)
- Environmental Mutagenesis and Genomics Society (EMGS)
Local scientific societies that study environmental toxicology and environmental health:
- North Carolina Society of Toxicology (NCSOT)
- Carolinas Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (CSETAC)
- Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis Society (GEMS)
- The North Carolina OneHealth Collaborative
Interesting articles and websites:
- Link to non-jargony, well-illustrated youtube videos, here and here, by Dr. Bruce Lanphear on chemical exposures and Environmental Health:
- An article on research on mountaintop removal valley fill coal mining: Mountains of Controversy; we have carried out some research in this area as well
- A good general environmental health news resource: Environmental Health News
- A project on indoor cookstoves and their health, environmental, and economic effects (that we are a small part of): The Cookstoves Project
- A report on illegal gold mining in Peru, which we are beginning to start to study as part of a large team.