CINCINNATI—Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have been awarded a $3.18 million grant renewal for a five-year period from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to continue a study of manganese exposure in youth as it relates to brain development.
A study that has been monitoring children for potential exposure to manganese in Marietta, Ohio, is now tracking the same cohort into adolescence, and has expanded to a new community—East Liverpool, Ohio. The Communities Actively Researching Exposure Study (CARES) was initiated in 2008 based on community concern about exposure to manganese from a metallurgical manufacturing company near Marietta.
"Since that initial study we received additional funding to expand the CARES cohort into East Liverpool, which has another leading source of ambient manganese,” says Erin Haynes, DrPH, associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health. "CARES now includes over 500 children across three communities in eastern Ohio.”
Manganese (symbol Mn) is an element generally found in combination with iron and many minerals. It plays a vital role in brain growth and development, but excessive exposure can result in neurotoxicity. Manganese is used widely in the production of steel, alloys, batteries and fertilizers and is added to unleaded gasoline. Children may be particularly susceptible to the neurotoxic effects of ambient Mn exposure, as their brains are undergoing a dynamic process of growth and development, says Haynes.
Previously, the CARES scientific team found that
both too low and too high levels of manganese can be associated with lower neurodevelopment.
"Marietta and East Liverpool have the largest sources of ambient manganese in the country, and we are working with these areas to evaluate the impact on adolescents living there,” Haynes says. "Our study has now expanded to include neuroimaging as we continue to advance our understanding of the impact of manganese on neurodevelopment, and help to define the lines between essential benefit and toxicological harm."
The study will evaluate, through blood tests and neuroimaging, the impact of manganese levels on executive function, attention and reaction time, achievement, behavior and neuromotor status. Kim Cecil, PhD, professor of radiology, pediatrics and environmental health at the UC College of Medicine and researcher at Cincinnati Children’s, is also a co-principal investigator of the grant and will oversee the neuroimaging portion of the study.
The research team includes Kim Dietrich, PhD and Amit Bhattacharya, PhD, of the Department of Environmental Health at the UC College of Medicine as well as researchers, Heidi Sucharew, PhD, and Nicholas Newman, DO, both assistant professors in the Department of Pediatrics at the UC College of Medicine and with Cincinnati Children’s. Additional collaborators on the study include Marietta College, Kent State East Liverpool Campus, University of Pittsburgh Children’s, and the Mount Sinai Medical Center and Wadsworth Laboratory in New York.