Neel Aluru receives Outstanding New Environmental Scientist Award

Congratulations to Neelakanteswar (Neel) Aluru, who recently received a ONES (Outstanding New Environmental Scientist) award from NIH's National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Neel has been working with Project 4 for several years, first as a postdoc and most recently as a collaborator in his position as an Assistant Scientist in the Biology Department at WHOI. The RFA states "The Outstanding New Environmental Scientist (ONES) Award is intended to identify the most talented Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) who intend to make a long-term commitment to research in the Environmental Health Sciences and assist them in launching an innovative research program focused on the understanding of environmental exposure effects on people’s health." 

The project title is  "Role of de novo DNMTs in Toxicant Induced Alterations in DNA Methylation" is a 5-year, $2.05M grant for research.  The research proposed by Neel in this project will provide new understanding of the role of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) enzymes in the mechanisms of epigenetic changes induced by exposure to environmental chemicals.  The studies will use zebrafish as a model system, and the results will be relevant both for human health as well as the health of vertebrate animals (including marine vertebrates) exposed to environmental chemicals. Read more in the WHOI press release and in the March 2015 Environmental Factor story "NIEHS funds six early-career researchers for innovative science"

Neel's BU SRP Project 4 papers:

Aluru, N., Karchner, S.I., Franks, D.G., Nacci, D., Champlin, D., Hahn, M.E., 2015. Targeted mutagenesis of aryl hydrocarbon receptor 2a and 2b genes in Atlantic killifish (Fundulus heteroclitus). Aquat Toxicol 158, 192-201.

Aluru, N., Karchner, S.I., Hahn, M.E., 2011. Role of DNA methylation of AHR1 and AHR2 promoters in differential sensitivity to PCBs in Atlantic Killifish, Fundulus heteroclitus. Aquat Toxicol 101, 288-294.


RESCHEDULED: Upcoming Society for Risk Analysis seminar on fish models and PCBs

The Society for Risk Analysis New England Chapter (SRA-NE), an organizational partner of the Research Translation Core, will be hosting a seminar entitled "Using Small Fish Models to study the Mechanisms and Effects of PCBs" on Wednesday, April 29th in L-301 on the BU Medical Campus. Refreshments will be served at 5:00pm and the presentations followed by discussion will begin at 5:30pm on the BU Medical Campus. The event will feature presentation from Dr. John Stegeman (Project 5) of BUSRP and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. An abstract of the upcoming seminar is found below.  Students and SRP colleagues are encouraged to attend!  More information is available here. To register for the event, please contact Aylin Sertkaya aylin.sertkaya [at]


Animal models have long been used to identify and understand how chemicals contribute to disease processes. Over the past 15 years, efforts involving small fish models have focused most on the zebrafish, but there is renewed interest in other species including the estuarine killifish Fundulus heteroclitis. Fish models are helping to decipher the molecular mechanisms by which dioxins and dioxin-like chemicals including non-ortho polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) cause toxicity, especially during development, and to uncover mechanisms of resistance to that toxicity. But what about the non-dioxin-like (NDL) ortho-PCBs? Our understanding of the toxicity and the mechanisms by which these chemicals are toxic is still fragmentary. Do ortho-PCBs have similar effects in mammals and fish? Can small fish provide insights into such mechanisms, as they have for the dioxin-like compounds? Our gene expression studies with ortho-PCBs in zebrafish are highlighting pathways of response to the NDL PCBs, including induction of P450s via the pregnane X receptor (PXR), as yet a poorly understood participant in NDL-chemical effects in fish. Our studies also point to novel molecular targets that may participate in causing the neurobehavioral effects of NDL PCBs. In the killifish, our results suggest that multigenerational exposure to very high levels of NDL PCBs causes adaptation by altering the function of calcium channels. This raises questions about whether structurally similar persistent environmental chemicals may cause similar effects. We should soon better understand the similarities and differences involved in different species’ responses to NDL compounds.


Peer Review of MassDEP Vapor Intrusion Guidance Now Available

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) recently solicited public review of their latest draft of Vapor Intrusion Guidance: WSC#-14-435.  The document provides guidance on identifying, assessing, and mitigating vapor intrusion pathways at disposal sites regulated under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan (MCP).

BU SRP RTC Leader Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays organized a peer review of the guidance by some academic scientists and public health professionals. Major comments on the draft were provided by Dr. Kelly Pennell of University of Kentucky SRP. The reviewers commended the document writing “This is a well-written document that recognizes the practical difficulties with assessment of vapor intrusion pathways.” Current and former Board of Health director reviewers called upon MassDEP to further develop their outreach strategy stating “The general sense of Section 5 [Communication and Public Involvement] is that the approach taken in 2015 should recognize the changing demographics in each city/town, the need for effective communication about the situation and the fact that inclusion of forms placed in a file is insufficient to convey the important results from the vapor intrusion evaluations.” The peer review can be accessed here.


SRPs collaborate to respond to community concerns on vapor intrusion in schools

In response to community concerns about TCE and PCE vapors in two schools in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, an informational session was held on February 9th. The session was organized with help from the UNC Superfund Research Program (SRP) and speakers included Lenny Siegel of the Center for Public Environmental Oversight, UNC SRP Research Translation Core (RTC) Leader Kathleen Gray, and University of Kentucky SRP Dr. Kelly Pennell. Lenny Siegel has been educating communities on vapor intrusion and remediation options for 16 years; Kathleen Gray works to engage communities in environmental problem solving and incorporating science into the decision-making process; Dr. Pennell is an expert vapor intrusion researcher. The speakers explained vapor intrusion, testing, and remediation options and answered audience questions. BU SRP RTC Leader Dr. Wendy Heiger-Bernays worked with Kathleen Gray behind the scenes to address some of the regulatory toxicology aspects of vapor intrusion covered during the informational session. Resources for communities are available online.

Affiliated Institutions

The Superfund Research Program at Boston University

Supported with funding from the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences' Superfund Research Program

This page is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution/share-alike license.

Contact us

Boston University School of Public Health
Department of Environmental Health
715 Albany Street, T4W
Boston, MA 02118
Telephone: 617-638-4620
Fax: 617-638-4857

Community Engagement and Research Translation Leader
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Community Engagement and Research Translation Staff
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Program Director
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.