Research


The Duke SRC includes five research projects and six support cores (2017 – 2022). In addition to the objectives of each project and core, an overarching goal of the Duke SRC is to foster development of synergistic interactions among Center investigators, their laboratories and students, and the diverse fields they represent. The SRC also places a heavy emphasis on the successful translation of research to the public and to decision makers, and on engaging impacted communities.

In humans and other vertebrates, early life development is a time of rapid growth and complex cellular differentiation and migration that is inherently sensitive to environmental influences.  Small changes in the chemical environment can influence how an individual grows when they are very young, and these changes in early growth and development can affect their health for the rest of their life. Thus, the Duke Superfund Research Center emphasizes how early life exposure to Superfund toxic chemicals impacts development and later-life health. Our theme is “Developmental Exposures: Mechanisms, Consequences, and Remediation.”

What is early life exposure?

Early life exposures are exposures to an individual that happen at a point early in that individual’s life and thus may impact normal development. These exposures can also happen to a mother, and affect her unborn child. Below are some windows of time when early life exposures can happen:

  • Before birth, before a woman is pregnant
  • Before birth, while a woman is pregnant
  • After birth, during infancy
  • After birth, during childhood

Research Projects (2017-2022)

Project 1: Developmental Neurotoxicants: Sensitization, Consequences, and Mechanisms
Principal Investigator: Ed Levin (Duke University Medical Center)
Co-Investigator: Theodore Slotkin and Frederic Seidler (Duke University Medical Center)

Project 2: Altering the Balance of Adipogenic and Osteogenic Regulatory Pathways from Early Life Exposure to HPCs and AOPEs
Principal Investigator: Heather Stapleton (Nicholas School of the Environment), Co-Investigator: Lee Ferguson
Co-Investigator: Lee Ferguson (Pratt School of Engineering) and Seth Kullman (Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University)

Project 3: Persistent Mitochondrial and Epigenetic Effects of Early Life Toxicant Exposure
Principal Investigators: Joel Meyer (Nicholas School of the Environment) and Susan Murphy (Duke University Medical Center)
Co-Investigator: Theodore Slotkin (Duke University Medical Center)

Project 4: Mechanisms and Consequences of Evolved Adaptation to Environmental Pollution
Principal Investigator: Rich Di Giulio (Nicholas School of the Environment)
Co-Investigator: David Hinton (Nicholas School of the Environment)

Project 5: Engineering the Physico-Chemical Environment to Enhance Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) Bioremediation
Principal Investigator: Claudia Gunsch (Pratt School of Engineering),
Co-Investigator: Mark Wiesner and Helen Hsu-Kim (Pratt School of Engineering), and Rytas Vilgalys (Department of Biology)