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Nov. 21, 2000
OSWEGO -- Hearts respond to stress. Dr. Brooks Gump of Oswego State and a team of researchers will explore how pre-natal exposure to certain chemical pollutants affects these stress reactions.
A four-year, $636,889 grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, will fund the research. Gump and colleagues from Oswego State and two other institutions will study how the circulatory systems of children exposed to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, before birth react to stress.
"Looking at prior research findings, it looked like kids (exposed to PCBs) would be more reactive emotionally, get frustrated more easily," Gump says. "We want to see what effects prenatal PCB exposure has on children's cardiovascular and neuroendocrine reactions to mildly frustrating tasks."
He and his co-principal investigators -- Dr. Thomas Darvill and Dr. Jacqueline Reihman of Oswego and consultants Dr. Karen A. Matthews of the University of Pittsburgh and Dr. Douglas A. Granger of Pennsylvania State University -- will study subjects from the Oswego Children's Study.
This ongoing longitudinal study follows 224 children born to women interviewed between 1991 and 1994 about their habits of eating Lake Ontario fish, which include pollutants like PCBs, mercury and Mirex, during pregnancy. In addition, PCB levels from the mother's placenta are provided by James Pagano of Oswego's Environmental Research Center.
The children, to be tested at age 10, will perform mildly stressful tasks, like mirror drawing of a pattern on a computer screen. The researchers will monitor the children's levels of the stress hormone cortisol, their blood pressure and data from impedance cardiography, a non-invasive technique to measure blood flow and the resistance of vessels to the flow of blood.
"PCBs may affect one aspect of cardiovascular functioning and not another," Gump says.
If greater exposure to PCBs affects how the children's heart and circulatory system react to stress, it would be important, he says, because it is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Gump has expertise in cardiovascular behavioral medicine. His other work involves the effect of chronic, as opposed to one-shot, stress on cardiovascular reactivity in children as young as 8. He plans to study both kinds of stress in the children in the new study, evaluating the effects of chronic stress using information provided in their family history.
The newly funded study is cutting-edge research. Only one other researcher -- at the University of California at San Francisco -- is currently looking at PCB exposure and cardiovascular reactivity, but nothing has yet been published, Gump says.
The grant money will pay salaries and buy equipment, including a blood pressure monitor and an impedance cardiograph. Impedance cardiographs are built when requested, and Oswego' cardiograph is due in early December.
In the meantime, Gump's laboratory has been renovated, and the procedures for the project are being finalized and assessors are being trained.
Oswego students will benefit from the grant, as well. One honors student is already slated to use the impedance cardiography equipment for her honors project, Gump says.
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CONTACT: Dr. Brooks Gump, 312-3463

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