2016 Progress Report: Characterizing Exposures and Outcomes in an Urban Birth Cohort (CHERUB)

EPA Grant Number: R836153C001
Subproject: this is subproject number 001 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R836153
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: Center for Children’s Health, the Environment, Microbiome, and Metabolomics’ Center
Center Director: McCauley, Linda
Title: Characterizing Exposures and Outcomes in an Urban Birth Cohort (CHERUB)
Investigators: Barr, Dana Boyd , Dunlop, Anne , Ryan, P. Barry
Institution: Emory University
EPA Project Officer: Louie, Nica
Project Period: September 1, 2015 through August 31, 2019
Project Period Covered by this Report: September 1, 2015 through August 31,2016
RFA: Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers (2014) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health , Children's Health


Aim 1: Characterize pre- and postnatal environmental exposures of African American (AA) mother-infant pairs in metropolitan Atlanta.

Aim 2:  Investigate the independent and interactive effects of prenatal chemical exposures upon the composition of the maternal microbiome for pregnant AA women in metropolitan Atlanta.

Aim 3:  Investigate the independent and interactive effects of prenatal chemical exposures upon birth outcomes for pregnant AA women in metropolitan Atlanta. 

The proposed cohort study will leverage:

  1. Data collected from the socioeconomically diverse cohort of pregnant AA women participating in our recently initiated 5-year study (Parent Study, R01 NR014800) assessing the maternal prenatal microbiome as predictive of birth outcomes. This cohort study provides data on prenatal maternal microbiome, nutrition, chronic stress, psychoneuroimmune dysfunction (e.g., cytokine concentrations, cortisol, glucocorticoid resistance) as well as pregnancy course and birth outcomes.
  2. Analytic and bioinformatic resources of Emory University’s NIH-funded Human Exposome Research Center (HERCULES; P30 ES019776). To a subset of the existing cohort, the proposed study will add pre- and postnatal environmental exposure assessment that will enable us to understand better both the range of fetal and early life exposures faced by metropolitan AA children and the effects of prenatal exposures. 

Progress Summary:

During Year 1, we have accomplished the following, consistent with our original timeline:

  1. All protocols and procedures for the recruitment and consent of subjects, the collection of data and specimens (questionnaire items, biological and household samples), and the handling, processing, and analysis of specimens have been developed, refined, and implemented by the P1 Team during Year 1.  Specifically, this accomplishment involved:  seeking and obtaining Emory Institutional Review Board approval for the P1 recruitment and data collection protocols; hiring field and laboratory staff to recruit subjects, and collect and analyze samples; building data bases for participant and sample tracking as well as housing data; and training field staff in the consent, data collection, data and sample handling and processing procedures.  
  2. Consistent with our developed protocols and procedures, we initiated recruitment of pregnant women into P1 in January 2016. To date, all women who have enrolled in the Parent Study since January 1, 2016 (n = 48) have provided blood and urine samples at the initial prenatal clinic visit (between 8-14 weeks’ gestation), and 23 of 48 have now entered the 20-30 week gestational age window for the home environmental assessment. Of these 23, 11 have completed the home environmental assessments including urine, dust and air samples and home questionnaire data collection (and are scheduled to have their urine and blood collections repeated at an upcoming prenatal clinic visit between 24-30 weeks’ gestation). We are actively reaching out to the remaining 12 in the gestational age window for the home environmental assessments to schedule those home visits, and we are continuing to recruit and enroll into the Parent Study and P1. All biological and environmental specimens have been processed and entered into a long-term biorepository created for this project. We have maintained participant tracking in a Microsoft Access database and participant survey and assay data in a RedCap database. In addition, we are currently implementing a laboratory information management system (LIMS) for biospecimen tracking and long-term laboratory data processing and storage of laboratory meta-data.
  3. Of note, we also have performed pilot testing of our laboratory methods for analysis of serum toxicants using serum samples collected from women in the same Parent Study Cohort, under a pilot funding award:  Serum samples from the first 184 pregnant African American women enrolled in the Prenatal Microbiome Study were analyzed in the Health and Exposome Research Center: Understanding Lifetime Exposures (HERCULES) Analytic Chemistry Core Lab (the Laboratory for Exposure Assessment and Development in Environmental Research (LEADER) directed by Drs. Barr and Ryan) with funds from a HERCULES pilot award made to a junior faculty mentored by PI’s Dunlop and Corwin. This chemical toxicant analysis reveals substantially elevated levels of several phthalate metabolites and bisphenol A (BPA) in comparison to US general population levels reported in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Even when compared specifically to non-Hispanic Black women who are most similar to our study population, levels of metabolites of three key phthalates and BPA were higher suggesting exposures that are unique to our cohort demographic, likely because of their geographic location or local cultural behaviors. For example, levels of mono-ethylphthalate (MEP), a metabolite of the diethylphthalate that is commonly used in personal care products such as hair pomades and douches, were ~5 times higher than adult females in NHANES. Previous studies have documented that MEP levels are higher in non-Hispanic Blacks but those in our population were two times higher than non-Hispanic Black women in NHANES suggesting an exposure unique to our population. Similarly, levels of metabolites of dibutylphthalate, benzylbutylphthalate and BPA were also higher in our population even when compared specifically to African American women. Levels of metabolites of the plasticizer 2-diethylhexylphthalate were slightly higher in our population and were more similar to levels found in non-Hispanic Black women in the US population. 
  4. Consistent with our developed protocols and procedures, we also initiated recruitment of birthed infants into P1 in December, 2015.  To date, we have collected 16 urine samples from diapers at the 1-wk and 2 urine samples from diapers at the 3-month post-birth time points.  We have a guest researcher who will be joining the LEADER laboratory in May 2016 specifically to process the diapers and analyze the urine collected from the disposable diapers using a novel method developed in-house.

Future Activities:

During the next reporting period, we will carry out the activities designated in our Timeline for Year 2.  Specifically, together with our trained staff and established protocols, we will continue to recruit and enroll pregnant women and birthed infants into P1, collect relevant data and specimens to allow us to characterize environmental toxicant exposures, and begin to analyze data and samples to allow us to characterize environmental exposures in the population of interest and discern the relationship between environmental exposures, the microbiome, and preterm birth risk.  In addition, we will continue to engage with the Stakeholder Advisory Board to solicit their input into how we should disseminate findings to the African American community and clinical and public health care providers for this community. 

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 6 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Other center views: All 51 publications 16 publications in selected types All 16 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Li S, Dunlop AL, Jones DP, Corwin EJ. High-resolution metabolomics: review of the field and implications for nursing science and the study of preterm birth. Biological Research for Nursing 2016;18(1):12-22. R836153C001 (2016)
R836153C003 (2016)
R836153C003 (2017)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Abstract: SAGE Journals-Abstract
  • Supplemental Keywords:

    health effects, human health, sensitive populations, infants, children, susceptibility, metals, community-based, environmental chemistry, biology, children's health, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, exposure, environmental monitoring, exposure assessment, developmental disorders, perinatal exposure, prenatal exposure,  dietary exposure, biological markers, growth and development, children's vulnerability, exposure, risk, effects, bioavailability, metabolism, vulnerability, chemicals, toxics, particulates, , epidemiology, microbiology, metabolomics, modeling, monitoring, analytical, surveys, southeast

    Relevant Websites:

    Center for Children’s Health, the Environment, the Microbiome, and Metabolomics (C-CHEM²) Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2017 Progress Report
  • 2018

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R836153    Center for Children’s Health, the Environment, Microbiome, and Metabolomics’ Center

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R836153C001 Characterizing Exposures and Outcomes in an Urban Birth Cohort (CHERUB)
    R836153C002 Microbiome, Environment, and Neurodevelopmental Delay (MEND)
    R836153C003 Metabolic, Microbiome and Toxicant-Related Interactions (MATRIX)