NiCHES Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center
What is "NICHES"? The Center for Study of Neurodevelopment and Improving Children’s Health following Environmental tobacco Smoke exposure (NICHES) is a new Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Center. NICHES is funded by grants from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The NICHES Children's Center will investigate how secondhand smoke (SHS) exposure during early life increases the risk of developing attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What is NICHES going to do? Our long-term objectives are: (1) to identify tangible mechanisms to improve therapeutic options for treatment of ADHD, and (2) ultimately to identify the means to reduce ADHD burden through preventative or ameliorative strategies. We expect achieving these objectives to require development of epigenetic biomarkers to identify at-risk children based on an epigenetic archive of past SHS exposure, making possible earlier use of novel ameliorative treatments. We hypothesize that epigenetic alterations induced by SHS exposure in early life are mechanistically responsible for altering neurodevelopment and neuronal function, which manifest as altered neurobehaviors associated with ADHD. Our hypothesis is based on our own preliminary data, as well as on emerging reports showing DNA methylation changes, including those detectable in blood, are involved in the etiology of neurologic dysfunction in psychiatric disorders. Our rationale is that the proposed research will identify specific molecular targets and how they are deregulated, information that can be used to develop screening tools and targets for developing novel treatments. We have four overall specific aims:
We believe this work will substantially improve understanding of the environment’s role in ADHD, generate potential new biomarkers, and identify new targets for developing treatments. This work will also train future scientists as well as educate the public and clinicians about the harms of environmental tobacco smoke.