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UC Riverside receives 6 grants for tobacco-related research

RIVERSIDE, Calif. Tobacco-related disease kills more people worldwide than any other single factor. To help address this problem, the University of California, Riverside has received six grants from the University of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), the most TRDRP grants the campus has received in any year.

Totaling more than $850,000, the grants will fund research on topics ranging from third-hand smoke to the effect of cigarette smoke on reproduction.

"These awards are very competitive," said Prue Talbot, one of the recipients of a TRDRP grant this year and the director of the UCR Stem Cell Center. "We now have five labs working in tobacco-related research at UCR, making us one of the stronger UC campuses in this area. By adding new labs, we are building a cohesive research force that will be attractive to students and will create a synergistic research group on our campus in this area."

This year, the TRDRP awards went to:

  • Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, for a project to study the adverse effects of third-hand smoke, which is the residue from tobacco smoke that adhere to nearly all surfaces (e.g. carpets, curtains, upholstery, car surfaces) long after a cigarette has been extinguished; the adhered products can then breakdown and/or change to become carcinogens. Martins-Green will study the effects of this kind of smoke exposure on skin biology and wound healing. The two-year $250,000 grant will support one graduate student and one postdoctoral scholar. "I am expecting to find that prolonged exposure to third-hand smoke will affect the ability of the skin to protect us from environmental exposures," she said. "I also expect that, when injured, the skin will not heal normally and could even result in wounds that become chronic."
  • Prue Talbot, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience, will study the effects of specific chemicals in cigarette smoke on reproduction using human embryonic stem cells to model the earliest stages of prenatal development. The two-year $250,000 grant will support two graduate students/postdoctoral scholars. "We will determine if specific chemicals in cigarette smoke affect the earliest stages of human development, which are likely to be the stage of the life cycle most sensitive to chemicals in smoke," Talbot said. "We will also determine what cell processes in these cells are altered by smoke exposure."
  • Nicole zur Nieden, an assistant professor of cell biology and neuroscience, received a New Investigator Award to study the effects of cigarette smoke on the developing heart and skeleton using human stem cell models. The three-year $270,000 grant will fund a research specialist, supplies and zur Nieden's summer salary. "Mainstream and second hand smoke increase miscarriage and stillbirth rates," she said. "However, the molecular mechanisms underlying the actions of mainstream and second hand smoke in the developing heart and skeleton are poorly understood and need to be better defined to assess the risk of smoking on the development of embryos and fetuses. The intention of this proposal is to provide new information about the sensitivity of developing cells and organs to harm-reduction and conventional tobacco."
  • Nisana Anderson, a Ph.D. student working with Yinsheng Wang, a professor of chemistry; Andersen received a $30,000 Dissertation Research Award.
  • Chris Kieslich, a Ph.D. student working with Dimitrios Morikis, a professor of bioengineering; Kieslich received a $30,000 Dissertation Research Award.
  • Monique Williams, an applicant to the Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology Graduate Program, who received the Cornelius Hopper Award; this $30,000 award is given to underrepresented students who have not had a good opportunity in the past to engage in research.

"Applicants from more than 80 research institutions in California compete every year for these prestigious grants," said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP. "UC Riverside scientists secured these grant awards exclusively because of their cutting-edge and high impact proposals in myriad areas of tobacco-related disease and tobacco control research. This success demonstrates that UCR scientists are making significant efforts and contributions in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of tobacco-related public health problems in California, and this bodes well for UCR to become a future leader in this important research arena."

UC TRDRP supports research that focuses on the prevention, causes, and treatment of tobacco-related disease and the reduction of the human and economic costs of tobacco use in California.


Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
University of California - Riverside

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