Human Translational Studies
There is great potential for research discoveries pertaining to early detection, prevention, and treatment strategies for environmentally related diseases to be translated into clinical practice and community settings. This translation is known as "bench to beside" or "beside to community" respectively. However, advances in translational research are often limited by differences in culture and mindet between basic and clinical/community scientists, difficulties developing and sustaining collaborations, lack of infrastructure for training, and issues regarding regulatory protocols.
A major goal of the IHSFC is to lower these barriers to translational research by providing access to services, expert advice, and community partnerships.
Community-oriented research may be able to bridge the gap between basic science and public health practice by seeking to develop and implement interventions across diverse communites. The environmental health research portfolio at Texas A&M encompasses many projects that employ community-oriented and translatonal approaches.
Check out some examples of how the human translational research area of the IHSFC core has been used by TiCER scientists below.
The first example is Dr. Tim Phillips’ work pertaining to inhibition of aflatoxin-induced hepato-carcinogenesis in vulnerable communities is an excellent example of bi-directional research translation. His established research program fits within Center Theme 1 (Stressors to Responses). Findings from his laboratory have revealed environmental aflatoxin exposure is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma in vulnerable communities in Texas and in sub-Saharan Africa. Multiple in vivo studies have confirmed the safety and efficacy of dietary clays, which are often used as medicines in certain cultures, to effectively sorb aflatoxin in the gastrointestinal track and prevent its uptake and distribution, thereby preventing its toxic and mutagenic action in the liver.
Multiple clinical trials investigating the ability of these smectite clays, either in capsule or powdered form added to food or water, verify their ability to significantly reduce aflatoxin exposure in populations from Ghana, Kenya, and in Texas. Due to the reliance on often poor quality crops and high consumption of corn in underserved Hispanic communities in south Texas (a target area of the Center) aflatoxin poses a risk factor for liver cancer in this region, which has exhibited an increased prevalence over the past decades.
Examples of Dr. Phillips’ work highlight the experience of Texas A&M researchers to successful translate findings from the lab to at-risk populations and firmly demonstrate therapies for environmentally-related diseases may be applied in community settings. Moreover, it is estimated that up to 10% of the world’s animal feeds now contain a clay-based sorbent that Phillips’ research developed, emphasizing the public health impact on both human and animal health.