2018 Pilot Projects

Understanding the Factors Influencing Exposures from Tobacco Usage among Young Adults in the Minority Communities

Principal Investigator: Hsu, Ping-Ching, Ph.D., M.S.
Primary Mentor: Pebbles Fagan, PhD
Secondary Mentor: Joseph Su, PhD

Young adults (YA) aged 18-26 have the highest rate of trying new and emerging tobacco products such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS). Dual use of ENDS with other tobacco products such as cigarettes and smokeless tobacco (ST) is common among YAs, who are at the critical stage in the development of regular tobacco use behavior. Dual use can increase the abuse liability of tobacco products, prolong frequency and intensity of use, and increase exposure to tobacco toxins. However, there is limited understanding of how individual factors such as nicotine dependence, smoking topography, and nicotine metabolism influence nicotine intake and exposure to tobacco toxins in YAs, particularly among those who live in rural Southern communities where smoking-attributable cancers are among the highest in the U.S. Our long-term goal is to generate innovative data that will inform tobacco regulatory policy related to how dual user consumption patterns influence toxicant exposure. Consistent with the Arkansas Center for Health Disparities (ARCHD) theme, the specific goal of this study is to investigate individual factors that will influence tobacco use behavior among socially disadvantaged YA who live in the Arkansas Phillips County where 62% of the population are African Americans. This study will use social network and community-engaged research methods to recruit traditionally hard-to-reach underserved YAs. We hypothesize that YAs who use multiple products (e.g., cig+ENDS or cig+ST) will have higher nicotine dependence than single users, resulting in longer and deeper puff profiles and greater toxicant exposures than single users. This study includes vulnerable populations defined by the Food and Drug Administration (minorities, YA, poor, and geographically isolated group), which has expressed an interest in better understanding how to reduce the toxicity and carcinogenicity of tobacco products. Therefore, we have the potential to have a huge impact on addressing tobacco-caused disparities.

Our aims are to:

  • Aim 1. Evaluate the smoking topography and nicotine dependence for YA smokers, ST, ENDS, and dual users.
  • Aim 2. Determine the differences in the toxicant exposure in saliva using targeted metabolomics, as well as the nicotine metabolic ratio for the above groups.

Cytogenetic and Epigenetic Alterations as a Result of Exposure to Ionizing Radiation in Northwest Arkansas Marshallese

Principal Investigator, Igor Koturbash, M.D., Ph.D
Primary Mentor: Joseph Su, PhD
Secondary Mentor: Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois

As a result of nuclear weapons testing in the northern Marshall Islands in the middle of the twentieth century, thousands of Marshallese were exposed to ionizing radiation and numerous islands were contaminated as a result of radioactive fallout. Increased cancer incidence and metabolic syndrome have been reported in residents of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and many more radiation-induced cancers are expected to emerge due to the latency of cancer
development. In this study, we will investigate the genetic and epigenetic effects of exposure to ionizing radiation that are associated with cancer and metabolic syndrome development among the Marshallese population in Northwest Arkansas.

Specific Aims:

Specific Aim 1. Determine whether exposures to IR are associated with stable chromosomal aberrations in peripheral lymphocytes of NWA Marshallese.

Using innovative and sensitive methodology (multiple fluorescence in situ hybridization [mFISH]), we will analyze and compare chromosomal aberrations in lymphocytes from NWA Marshallese and from matched control subjects. This will allow us to identify persistent cytogenetic aberrations associated with the exposure to IR, and the proposed method will provide much greater resolution than conventional cytogenetic techniques.

Specific Aim 2. Determine whether exposures to IR are associated with altered levels of LINE-1 DNA methylation in peripheral lymphocytes of NWA Marshallese. Using new methodology developed in our laboratory, we will examine and compare the DNA methylation status of 12 LINE-1 elements that belong to different evolutionary lineages. Results from samples of NWA Marshallese will be compared to those from

samples of matched controls. Our new method allows robust analysis of LINE-1 DNA methylation from as few as 500 cells of starting material, as well as sensitive identification of alterations in DNA methylation, even within subsets of LINE-1 elements.