About the Center
The primary mission of the UNC Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma and Lung Biology (CEMALB) is to improve understanding of the impact environmental factors and toxicants have on human health, with the goal of generating knowledge to inform public policy decisions and develop personal mitigation strategies for susceptible populations.
To integrate mechanistic, functional, and clinical information on adverse health effects caused by inhaled toxicants.
The Center for Environmental Medicine and Lung Biology of the School of Medicine was established in 1979 under the leadership of Dr. Phillip Bromberg and is broadly concerned with environmental impacts on human health and on respiratory health in particular. Under the leadership of Dr. David Peden, the name was changed in 2002 to Center for Environmental Medicine, Asthma, and Lung Biology to reflect an increasing disease-specific focus of the research conducted by Center investigators. Since June 2020, the Center has been led by Dr. Ilona Jaspers, who is further broadening the Center’s emphasis on training, integration of data, and translating research to affect relevant stakeholders.
CEMALB Research Focus
Multidisciplinary approaches and a variety of experimental models are used by CEMALB investigators to study the effects of inhaled contaminants on diseased and healthy human subjects to identify biological mechanisms, establish dose-response patterns, and screen toxicants and potential interventions. These include:
- Controlled exposures of human volunteers to model pollutants using state-of-the-art environmental chambers
- Organotypic cell culture models and cell lines studied in vitro
- Animals studied in vivo
- Non-invasive sampling of human cohorts to establish biomarkers of environmental exposures in larger population studies
- In silico/computational integration of environmental exposure data with human cohort data and electronic medical records
The Center also facilitates access to the sophisticated in vitro exposure systems and animal environmental exposure facilities of the Public Health and Integrated Toxicology Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), located on the UNC-CH medical campus and the Research Triangle Park, NC.
We have collaborated with a number of researchers across the UNC system. Investigators from a variety of departments in the Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, and the College or Arts and Sciences have been involved in CEMALB activities. This includes our long-time collaborations with investigators from the Marsico Lung Institute focused on a variety of topics, including COPD, military burn pit exposures, and research related to other lung diseases. A more recent partner in the CEMALB’s research efforts, particularly related to the effects of inhaled toxicants on pediatric lung diseases, is the Children’s Research Institute. In the Gillings School of Public Health, we have partnered with the Center for Environmental Health and Susceptibility, the UNC Superfund Research Program, and the Institute for Environmental Health Solutions. Finally, we work regularly with the Institute for the Environment to communicate our research to the general public, lawmakers, and other community stakeholders. Collectively, these partnerships emphasize the integrated and trans-disciplinary approach to recognize environmental health effects, identify susceptible populations, develop potential solutions, and communicate this knowledge with relevant stakeholders.
CEMALB Training Opportunities
CEMALB takes pride in training the next generation of scientists and medical professionals who will continue investigating the effects of the environment on human health. Our trainees successfully gain skills in clinical, in vitro, and in silico studies, regulatory processes, data analysis, presentation of research to broad audiences in a variety of forums, and general professional development. These skills translate to successful admission to professional schools and jobs in all sectors from academia to government to industry.
In addition to applied and basic research programs CEMALB offers educational and research training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral and clinical fellows. Since 2012, the Center has administered the Curriculum in Toxicology and Environmental Medicine, a graduate training program led by Dr. Jaspers. This pan-campus graduate training program is funded by a long-standing NIEHS/NIH T32 Training grant. In addition, the Center has provided training opportunities for students from the Departments of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Microbiology and Immunology, Biomedical Engineering, and Biostatistics, as well as clinical trainees in Allergy/Immunology, Pulmonology, and Surgery.
CEMALB Funding and Sponsorship
CEMALB has a general Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and also administers grants from various federal and non-federal sponsors including the NIH, DoD, FDA, CDC, and NSF as well as foundation and industry-sponsored partnerships. CEMALB sponsors the Visiting Pulmonary Scholar Program, Research Conferences, and Seminars related to basic science and clinical studies in environmental health sciences.
The Center has administrative offices and laboratories located in the EPA Human Studies Facility (104 Mason Farm Road) as well as the UNC Children’s Research Institute (116 Manning Drive).