Children’s environmental health research is getting a boost in 2016 with the launch of the NIEHS-led Children’s Health Exposure Analysis Resource, or CHEAR. As soon as September, eligible researchers can apply to have biological samples analyzed — at no cost — for chemicals and biomarkers of exposures, which may provide important clues about how the environment affects children’s health.
NIEHS created CHEAR as part of a $144 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to better understand how the environment influences child health and development. Through a combination of grant-funded laboratory and data analysis resources, NIEHS hopes that CHEAR will enable the broadest possible assessment of children’s environmental health.
“CHEAR was developed to help scientists already studying children’s health expand their research questions to consider environmental impacts,” said David Balshaw, Ph.D., co-director of CHEAR and chief of the NIEHS Exposure, Response, and Technology branch. “We have assembled a fantastic group who will be conducting analyses in laboratory hubs, managing the flow of samples and data, and providing consultation on statistical analyses.”
A new, comprehensive set of resources
CHEAR consists of three grant-funded components (see sidebar). The National Exposure Assessment Laboratory Network will conduct laboratory analyses for successful applicants. Network labs will conduct targeted analyses when there is a hypothesis about specific environmental concerns, such as pesticides or metals. Untargeted analyses can measure hundreds to thousands of compounds simultaneously, using a data-driven approach to identify new connections between exposures and children’s health. Finally, the labs can measure biological markers of impacts from environmental conditions to which children or their parents are exposed, such as measures of DNA damage and markers of inflammation.
The Data Repository, Analysis, and Science Center will manage the storage of CHEAR data, provide consultation on statistical analyses, and support the development of new statistical methods and informatics tools.
The Coordinating Center will manage the application process and assist researchers in navigating CHEAR services.
NIH-funded researchers are eligible
Scientists who have conducted children’s health research that was at least partially NIH-funded are eligible to access CHEAR. There is particular interest in epidemiological or clinical studies that did not previously examine exposures to environmental factors, but have biological samples available for analysis. The samples must be from children or their parents. Studies that considered environmental factors but want to expand on previous measurements are also eligible.
Applications will be accepted continuously via the CHEAR website and will be reviewed several times a year. Proposals should include a description of the original study for which samples were collected and the proposed CHEAR analyses, including key research questions and relevance to children’s environmental health.
(Virginia Guidry, Ph.D., is a technical writer and public information specialist in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)