|Researcher Spotlight - Dr. Rebecca Fry|
Biologist Rebecca Fry is passionate about helping children in other countries -- a passion fueled by international educational opportunities during high school and college where she lived with local families in Brazil and Mexico. Then, as a post-doctoral researcher at MIT, she had the chance to study the effects of prenatal arsenic exposure on gene signaling in children in Thailand.
"I realized that, every day, environmental contaminants are influencing the health of children in the U.S. and in other countries," says Fry, now an assistant professor of environmental sciences and engineering and UNC SRP researcher who studies the relationship of toxic metals in the environment and detrimental health effects, particularly in children.
Under a SRP grant, she is studying children's health effects related to prenatal exposure to cadmium in North Carolina. Cadmium is a toxic metal that, like arsenic, poses a threat to children's health. "There is evidence that maternal exposure to cadmium may leave marks on the baby's DNA that could be passed on to future generations," Fry explains. "We are looking at DNA collected from newborns' cord blood to see if there is a relationship between their prenatal exposure and epigenetic changes."
Fry is also working on a SRP project to help the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services map the presence of toxic metals in well water throughout the state (see page 5), and has a separate five-year NIEHS-funded grant to study the effects of early life exposure to arsenic on children's health in a population in Mexico.
"I hope that this work can increase awareness that, even at low levels, these metals can cause significant changes in children's DNA that could explain numerous health outcomes. The better we understand what's happening biologically, the more likely we are to find ways to prevent or overcome exposure to keep children healthy.
|Last updated January 29, 2013|