Assistant Professor Daniele Lantagne comments on a new PLoS study by Yale researchers that suggests if United Nations peacekeeping troops had taken a $1 antibiotic pill before they were deployed to Haiti, it may well have prevented the 2010 cholera outbreak. “Based on DNA evidence, this outbreak was probably started by one or very few infected, asymptomatic individuals,” says Lantagne.
Linda Abriola, a nationally recognized authority on groundwater contamination and remediation, has been appointed director of the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), with the goal of raising the institute’s profile both within and outside the university.
Abriola, the former dean of Tufts School of Engineering and one of five University Professors at Tufts, will focus on generating new connections that bolster interdisciplinary environmental research and education for faculty and undergraduate and graduate students.
“I view TIE as an entity that is rooted in Tufts’ longstanding culture of education and research for societal impact,” says Abriola. “This appointment offers me a wonderful opportunity to work across the campus to engage diverse groups of faculty and students to create new synergies. Our primary goal will be to leverage Tufts’ intellectual capital to make a difference in the world.”
Assistant Professor Ayse Asatekin received an NSF CAREER Award for her proposal to engineer novel membranes with new capabilities by designing polymers that self-assemble to form nanostructures. Membrane filtration is energy efficient, simple, scalable, and a key technology for generating clean, safe water and for preventing water pollution. Asatekin’s research focuses on controlling the pore size of a novel family of membranes with high flux, exceptional fouling resistance, and sharp size-based selectivity, prepared by coating zwitterion-containing amphiphilic copolymers on porous supports.
Dr. Jeffrey Griffiths, a professor Tufts University School of Medicine, adjunct professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and former chair of the EPA’s Drinking Water Committee, Science Advisory Board, says we don’t have a strong understanding of the health impacts of low-level exposure to chemicals in water.
“The truth is there is no such thing as a safe amount of lead in water; there’s no such thing as a safe amount of arsenic in water, but the removal of those is costly, so therefore we have standards which allow trace amounts of those,” Griffiths says.
Listen to NPR’s interview with Dr. Griffiths.
Professor and Chair Kurt Pennell and collaborators received an NIH/NIMH grant for an environment-wide association study in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) using novel bioinformatics methods and metabolomics via mass spectrometry. ASD is influenced by both genetic and environmental risk factors. The research team, including Dr. Sek Won Kong at Boston Children’s Hospital and Professor Dean Jones at Emory University, includes experts in pediatrics, environmental epidemiology/chemistry, toxicology, metabolomics and bioinformatics to address environmental contributions to ASD.
Professor and Chair Soha Hassoun was one of three recipients of an 2015 Ideas Competition award. The Ideas Competition, hosted by Tufts Gordon Institute, is designed for early-stage business ideas. Hassoun’s project “TRAG: At-Home Diagnostics System and App for Tracking the Gut Microbiota” seeks to allow individuals to easily and frequently track and assess the impact of diet, including prebiotics and probiotics, on the gut microbiota. “The global market for prebiotics and probiotics is expected to grow steadily in the next 5 years,” says Hassoun. “There is currently no sure way of predicting and tracking the benefits of these products.”
Learn more about the Ideas Competition and enter the Tufts $100K New Ventures Competition.
In January 2016, Cambridge University Press published Quantitative Biomedical Optics, a textbook Professor Sergio Fantini (BME) co-authored with Professor Irving Bigio of Boston University.
The text covers a broad range of areas in biomedical optics, from light interactions at the single-photon and single-biomolecule levels, to the diffusion regime of light propagation in tissue.
“Bigio and Fantini’s comprehensive text on biomedical optics provides a wonderful blend of accessible theory and practical guidance relevant to the design and application of biomedical optical systems. It should be required reading for all graduate students working in this area.” – Rebecca Richards-Kortum, Rice University, Houston
Adjunct Professor Doug Brugge (CEE) is quoted in South Dakota’s Rapid City Journal about the dangers of water sources contaminated with uranium. Research teams at Tufts and the University of New Mexico are linking long-term exposure of drinking uranium-contaminated water to signs of reproductive and genetic damage, among other problems.
“We should not have any doubts as to whether drinking water with uranium in it is a problem or not. It is,” said Brugge, professor of public health and community medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. “The larger the population that’s drinking this water, the more people that are going to be affected.
On December 13, 2015, Professor Bill Messner spoke with the the Boston Metro about the possibility of driverless trains in the public transportation system, commenting on the recent “Ghost Train” mishap where a Red Line train left a T station without its driver. “From a technology standpoint, it’s certainly doable. It’s a question of expense, really, and of course public acceptance of autonomous trains.” Messner commented that the MBTA is not a good case for “robotic retrofitting” because it was never designed to be an autonomous system.
In an article in Chemical and Engineering News, Professor and Chair Kurt Pennell commented on how research in metabolomics methods can help address the “exposome”: the sum of environmental exposures a person experiences from conception until death. “Pennell’s goal is to relate exposome information to genetic information. In one study, his group is collaborating with researchers at Children’s Hospital in Boston to relate chemical exposure and whole-genome sequencing of mothers and children with autism spectrum disorder.”