Systemic Toxicology Research
The broad goal of researchers studying systemic toxicology in NYU Langone’s Division of Environmental Medicine is to increase our understanding of health-related responses resulting from exposure to airborne environmental chemicals, the mechanisms underlying these effects, and the relationships between such effects and the pathogenesis of human disease.
An important aspect of many of our studies is the evaluation of exposure factors that modulate biological responses. While high concentrations of toxicants in occupational settings are clearly associated with overt disease, the impacts of exposure to lower ambient concentrations in the exacerbation of preexisting disease states, or in the induction of new ones, are less clear.
In many of our projects, we use relatively low levels of exposure to better model the ambient situation and avoid the need to extrapolate toxicology information from very high experimental exposure levels. Access to the Division of Environmental Medicine’s cutting-edge research facilities is a critical factor in our ability to develop experimental atmospheres that approximate real human exposure situations.
Led by Terry Gordon, PhD, our members’ research projects range from exposure characterization to responses at the molecular, cellular, and whole-animal levels. While most of our in vivo studies employ experimental animals, we also perform human exposure studies to better define the relationships between exposure to ambient and occupational air pollution and their health effects.
Our research emphasizes physical and chemical components of exposure atmospheres and their specific influences on health-related indices. We have developed technologies and procedures to characterize temporal day-to-day variations in ambient aerosol composition over extended periods of time. One of our goals is to correlate such changes with the temporal variations in health-related responses observed in epidemiology studies and in animals exposed to concentrated ambient particulate matter.
Characterizing environmental health effects is complex and requires interdisciplinary assessments. The ability to examine effects of pollutant chemical exposures at multiple investigatory levels and the use of in vivo and in vitro exposure methodologies allows for the development of an integrated, mechanistic evaluation of toxicant action and disease pathogenesis.
Almost all of our studies cross traditional discipline boundaries; we collaborate with colleagues in a range of research areas. In particular, we interact extensively with environmental epidemiology researchers in cross-disciplinary studies that examine the role of individual components and sources of ambient particulate matter in adverse health effects. These collaborations examine air pollution–related health effects in the New York City metropolitan area and in other urban centers throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
More recently, we have explored the adverse health effects of particles and gases emitted by alternative tobacco products such as e-cigarettes and hookah water pipes.
While our focus is on pulmonary toxicology, and studies involving exposures via the respiratory system make up the largest component of our research portfolio, research projects also examine environmental influences related to air pollution exposures on the immune, hepatic, nervous, and cardiovascular systems.