Recent Research and Staff Updates


October, 2018 – Investigators from of the NiCHES project teams attended the NIEHS/EPA Children’s Envirionmental Health Centers annual meeting 10/22-23 in Durham. Dr. Julia Schechter and Dr. Andrew Hawkey presented abstracts on current findings from project 1 and project 2.

February, 2018 – Later this month, the project 1 team will be presenting several posters at the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco annual meeting in Baltimore.

January, 2018 – A recent paper and news release by Dr. Julia Schechter and the project 1 team was featured on the WUNC Morning Edition radio show. The paper focused on the decrease in secondhand smoke exposure for pregnant mothers following the North Carolina smoking ban in 2009. The study also found African-Americans, unmarried women and those with less education were at higher risk for exposure during pregnancy.

October, 2017 – Dr. Cathrine Hoyo (project 1) gave an invited talk “Prenatal exposure to heavy metals and perturbation of DLK1/MEG3 methylation” at the University of Memphis.

October, 2017 – The NIEHS and EPA released the Impact Report highlighting how NICHES and the other Children’s Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers are protecting children’s health.

May, 2017Dr. Ed Levin presented the abtract “Persisting effects of separate and combined nicotine and benzo-a-pyrene exposure during gestation on motor, emotional and cognitive functions in rats” at the International Neurotoxicology Association and Neurotoxicity Society Joint Meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil.

March, 2017 – Dr. Lisa Satterwhite (Project 2) received a grant from NIEHS “Protecting Neurodevelopment in Latino Migrant Children by Reduced Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides”. Working on a team that includes Dr. Scott Kollins (Project 1) and  Dr. Joseph Lucas (Project 3), symptoms of ADHD, ASD and tremor will be associated with health outcomes and occupational exposure to specific pesticides, herbicides, nicotine and metals. Genomic and epigenetic patterns in blood will provide clues to the molecular mechanisms of increased risk for disease later in life.

January, 2017 – Duke Health posted a press release “Animal Study Shows Harmful Effects of Secondhand Smoke Even Before Pregnancy” featuring Dr. Theodore Slotkin and the NICHES Project 2 research.

January, 2017 – A Project 1 poster presentation “Early Developmental Risk Factors for ADHD Symptoms in Young Children” received honorable mention at at the American Professional Society of ADHD and Related Disorders annual meeting held in Washington, D.C.

December, 2016 – Project 1 presented three posters at the NIEHS Fest, led by Dr. Julia Schechter and Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler. The research findings addressed, “Independent and interactive effects of prenatal cotinine exposure and maternal depression on birthweight, “Effects of prenatal tobacco exposure on attention regulation and language acquisition in early childhood,” and “Using mobile and digital technology to improve cohort management in the Duke NICHES cohort.”

December, 2016 – As part of the Dissemination and Implementation Session at the NIEHS Fest, Dr. Susan Murphy (Project 3), gave an invited talk regarding “Communicating the Complexities of Scientific Research”.

December, 2016 – Dr. Ed Levin (Project 2) gave a talk at the NIEHS Fest about “Sex Differences and Environmental Exposure: Latest Research Advances and Impact of New NIH Policy,” and presented a poster titled, “Critical windows of tobacco smoke chemical exposure causing long-term behavioral effects in rats.”

July, 2016 – Dr. Lisa Satterwhite (Project 2) and Dr. Joseph Lucas (Project 3) worked with the Duke University Data+ program to develop a machine learning statistical model that predicts pancreatic cancer from latent structure in the electronic medical record. Similar models will be developed for ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.

December, 2015 Dr. Lisa Satterwhite (Project 2) and Dr. Joseph Lucas (Project 3) received a grant from Duke University School of Medicine to determine blood-derived genomic signatures for pancreatic cancer precursors including diabetes, chronic pancreatitis and tobacco use. Smoking and smoke-less tobacco double the risk for pancreatic cancer.

December, 2015 Dr. Lisa Satterwhite (Project 2) and Dr. Joseph Lucas(Project 3) received a Duke University Data + award to train Duke Undergraduates in statistical modeling to uncover patterns in medical record data that identify pancreatic cancer and clusters of symptoms associated with increased risk, which include diabetes and tobacco use.

October 30, 2015 – NICHES Program Leader Dr. Susan K. Murphy gave a talk at the joint Children’s Environmental Health Centers / Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units meeting in Washington DC, “#duetoepigenetics #whatdoesthatmean #mustbevoodooscience” describing the importance of accurately communicating with the media and public about epigenetics.

September 17, 2015 – NICHES Project 2 Co-Investigator Dr. Theodore Slotkin has been named to the review panel for the upcoming “2016 Surgeon General’s Call to Action on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults.”

July, 2015 – Dr. Lisa Satterwhite (Project 2) established “Protect Latino Agricultural communities: Neurodevelopment and Education” (PLANE). PLANE will examine health effects of occupational nicotine exposure in Latino men, women and children who work in tobacco agriculture. Topping tobacco and manual harvest can result in nicotine exposure equaling that in 27-36 cigarettes per day. The study will determine genomic and epigenetic signatures for nicotine exposure and identify biomarkers that distinguish green tobacco sickness, heat stroke, influenza, and pesticide poisoning for diagnostic tests in emergency settings.

February 22, 2015 ­– Dr. Lisa Satterwhite and Dr. Susan K. Murphy presented work on epigenetic change in human neural stem cells exposed to nicotine and tobacco smoke extract at the Keystone Neuroepigenetics Symposia in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

February 19, 2015 –­ NICHES Project 2 Co-Investigator Dr. Lisa Satterwhitegave an invited lecture to the Duke Center for Genomic and Computational Biology on “Genomic Signatures for Pesticide Exposure and Parkinson’s Disease.” She described recent work that uses early life pesticide exposure data to identify statistical models to predict neurodegenerative disease in the early asymptomatic stages.

February 3, 2015 – NICHES Community Outreach and Translation Core has launched an INSTAGRAM contest to help babies avoid smoke!  Contest information can be found here or on our Community page.  Winners will be selected after the contest ends APRIL 1, 2015.

December 10, 2014 – NICHES Project 2 Co-Investigator Dr. Theodore Slotkinis awarded the 2015 Society of Toxicology Education Award. The Society of Toxicology’s announcement reads, “This award honors an individual who teaches and trains toxicologists and who has made significant contributions to education in the field of toxicology. Dr. Slotkin has been teaching and mentoring future toxicologists at Duke University for more than 40 years, with many SOT members receiving tutelege under him.”

October 16, 2014 – The Duke Epigenetics and Epigenomics Program (DEEP) will host a mini-symposium on Environmental Epigenetics from 9 AM to 12 noon in the Trent Semans Center at Duke University (near the Medical Center Library). Dr. Rebecca Fry of UNC-Chapel Hill will be our keynote speaker.

September 10, 2014 – NICHES Project 2 principal investigator Dr. Ed Levin will give a talk in the Children’s Environmental Health Center Webinar Series entitled, “Predicting, preventing and treating developmental toxic risks from environmental exposures using animal models of neurobehavioral function.”  This webinar (1:00-2:30 PM) also features talks by Gregory Diette (Johns Hopkins), Andrew Liu (National Jewish Health) and Jennifer Lowry (Children’s Mercy).  The webinar will be moderated by NICHES Project 1 Principal Investigator, Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler.

August 13, 2014 – NICHES program leader Dr. Susan K. Murphy and UC Davis CEHC program leader Dr. Judith Van de Water will present findings in the Children’s Environmental Health Center Webinar Series on Environmental Exposures and Neurodevelopmental Outcomes (1:00-2:30 PM). This webinar will be moderated by Dr. Elaine Faustman, Principal Investigator of the University of Washington’s Center for Child Environmental Health Risks Research.

July, 2014 – NICHES Project 2 co-investigator Dr. Lisa Satterwhite received a grant from the Lord Foundation to study blood-based epigenetic signatures for pancreatic cancer, a devastating prognosis with a 5 year survival rate of 5%.  Tobacco use, including smokeless tobacco, is a strong risk factor.  Satterwhite’s lab will determine epigenomic signatures of occupational nicotine exposure and the relation with signatures for pancreatic cancer.  The goal is to create a simple blood test to diagnose pancreatic cancer in early asymptomatic stages.

April 30, 2014 – NICHES program leader Dr. Susan Murphy quoted in the NPR Health Blog by Michaeleen Doucleff: Mom’s Diet Right Before Pregnancy Can Alter Baby’s Genes

March 7, 2014 – The Duke Superfund, ITEHP and NICHES co-host the Environmental Toxicology Symposium: Cognitive Impairment Caused by Developmental Neurotoxic Exposure: Mechanisms, Consequences and Therapeutic Treatment

February 19, 2014 – NICHES investigators Dr. Cathrine Hoyo, Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler and Dr. Susan Murphy are featured in a story by Mary-Russell Roberson about the Newborn Epigenetics STudy (NEST) and the NICHES Children’s Center: Environmental Influences on Health, Starting Before Birth

December 30, 2013 – NICHES investigator Dr. Theodore Slotkin’s research findings contribute to raising the legal age to purchase nicotine in New York City.  Read the article describing the translation of Dr. Slotkin’s research to benefit human health: Dude, where’s my smokes? Nicotine and the teenage brain: New York City targets smoking’s favorite victims 

December 9, 2013Dr. Rocehlle Schwartz-Bloom, leader of the NICHES Community Outreach and Translation Core, has been working together with students in the Duke Bass Connections Program to develop educational materials that will help explain the research finding from NICHES about how smoking during pregnancy can have harmful effects on the developing child.  Watch the Duke Office Hours interview with Dr. Schwartz-Bloom, Craig Roberts, assistant director of education at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and Rachel James, a Bass Connections student and senior neuroscience major: Bass Connections Team on Epigenetics

December 5, 2013 – Duke Today announces the NICHES Children’s Center: New Children’s Center studies association between ADHD and secondhand smoke

November 25, 2013NICHES investigator Dr. Theodore Slotkin discusses use of the nicotine patch versus cigarettes during pregnancy with Jon Hamilton of NPR’s Morning Edition: In Pregnancy, What’s Worse? Cigarettes Or The Nicotine Patch?  Listen here.

September 23, 2013 – NICHES program leader Dr. Susan Murphy interviewed by Jon Hamilton on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition about epigenetics in the developing embryo/fetus: How a pregnant woman’s choices could shape a child’s health

September 8, 2013 – NICHES investigator Dr. Theodore Slotkin published an editorial piece in JAMA Psychiatry: Maternal Smoking and Conduct Disorder in the Offspring