Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, DrPH
Director and Founding Dean
                 
Dear UCI Community,
 

With the holidays upon us, I would like to take this opportunity to express how grateful I feel to be part of such a special community. It is true that this time of year brings no greater joy than to offer my sincerest gratitude for your service to our campus community and beyond, especially in light of the challenges that this past year has presented.

 

Almost instantly, we were forced to alter our habits and adapt to new realities at work, school, and home. The global pandemic required us to make sacrifices that we never have before, from isolating and physical distancing to relying on Zoom for nearly all social interaction.

 

It has been a long and arduous road -- one that will continue into the new year and call on us to maintain our strength as we forge ahead in our work to reduce the burden of the virus.

 

Despite its challenges, in many ways, the pandemic has brought us together.

This collective experience has rallied our community around the common goal of protecting one another on campus and beyond. I have every confidence that we will continue to come together in the new year, stronger (and hopefully after the holidays, more rested) than ever.

 

Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season. On behalf of the Program in Public Health, thank you again for all that you do.

Santa Ana Surveillance Study

The UCI Program in Public Health is partnering with the city of Santa Ana to conduct COVID-19 antibody testing of 8,000 residents to determine exposure throughout the community.

Santa Ana has been disproportionately burdened by the public health threat of COVID-19 with a significant impact of social determinants of health on disparities in incidence and severity. The city is home to a large proportion of essential workers, including first responders like healthcare workers.

The study is being conducted by members of the research team who also conducted the Orange County-wide seroprevalence study (actOC) in Summer 2020 and utilizes the same innovative protein microarray technology, which was developed by the university’s Vaccine Research and Development Center. The project is integrated, in part, into Santa Ana CARES, the city’s existing infrastructure of COVID-19 mobile resource units, which visits neighborhoods and parks to provide free testing, masks, information, and other resources to residents. Testing concludes this month.

Learn more by watching KTLA's coverage of the study here.
Pacific Symphony Consultancy Project

To develop safety protocols and a plan to produce safe live events, The Pacific Symphony turned to UCI experts in infectious diseases, including faculty from the Program in Public Health. Learn more by watching ABC7's coverage of the project and interview with Dr. Karen Edwards here.

"The problem of course are the wind and brass players, like trumpets and the flutes, and the clarinets. They cannot wear a mask and play their instrument. So we've had to work with the symphony to come up with a plan to keep everybody safe," Dr. Edwards says.
WATCH NOW
12/09/20: UCI Santa Ana CARES Antibody Testing
(Daniel Parker)
12/04/20: The Virus Is Devastating the U.S., and Leaving an Uneven Toll - Front page story
(Andrew Noymer)
Department of Environmental and
Occupational Health
Congratulations to Drs. Veronica Vieira and Michael Kleinman, whose vaping study was just named one of the top 10 UC studies in 2020!

Nicotine, THC, and Vitamin E oil were previously thought to contribute to the serious lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use. Early results from Drs. Vieira and Kleinman's study indicate that the culprit could instead be the nickel-chromium alloy heating elements in e-cigarettes. Learn more here.
The Air Pollution Health Effects Lab (APHEL), which is co-directed by Dr. Michael Kleinman, is gearing up for a 1-year exposure experiment to study the effects of ultrafine, fine and coarse PM on the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease-related brain cellular and biochemical changes.
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Dr. Beth Thomas, Researcher in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and faculty member of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Salivary Bioscience Research (IISBR), will be overseeing the launch of a new COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Nucleocapsid Protein (N-protein) specific IgG antibody assay as part of the IISBR service center.

This assay has been authorized by the FDA under Emergency Use Authorization to support researchers’ seroprevalence studies related to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 infection.  The easy-to-collect, non-invasive nature of saliva sampling facilitates the identification of prior COVID-19 exposure, enabling seroprevalence research studies to occur at a population-based level. Visit here
or contact Beth Thomas at eathoma1@uci.edu for additional information. 
The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics has had strong representation this year with graduate students presenting their research at the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) virtual conference in October. ASHG is the world’s largest human genetics conference.
 
Tulika Kakati (Fulbright-Nehru visiting scholar, Computer Science; PI: Trina Norden-Krichmar) presented her research poster entitled “Classification of Differentially Expressed Genes using a Convolutional Neural Network”.  Tulika also received an ASHG Developing Country Award for her poster.
 
Stanislav Listopad (Computer Science, PI:  Trina Norden-Krichmar) presented his research poster entitled “Comparison of Differential Expression, Information Gain, and Random Forest for Feature Selection with RNA sequencing data”.
 
Xiaochen Liu (Epidemiology, PI: Trina Norden-Krichmar) presented her research poster entitled “Single-cell RNA sequencing reveals transcriptional heterogeneity of viral and alcohol-associated hepatitis”.
 
Rachel Lucia (Epidemiology, PI: Hannah Lui Park) presented her research poster entitled “Epigenome-wide association study of mammographic density”.   
 
Chloe Thangavelu (Biological Chemistry; PI: Trina Norden-Krichmar) presented her research poster entitled “Meta-analysis of ATAC-seq data to explore chromatin accessibility during iPSC reprogramming”.
Department of Health, Society and Behavior
On December 10, Dr. Annie Ro delivered a presentation titled "Persisting Inequalities and Paths Forward: A Report on the State of Undocumented Students at California's Public Universities" as part of a project with the UC Collaborative to Promote Immigrant and Student Equity (UC PromISE).

During this presentation, Dr. Ro gave a briefing on a new report from UC PromISE where she offered in-depth coverage of the findings and a discussion of what stakeholders need to know to advance equity and inclusion for undocumented students. The briefing featured conversation with some of the report's authors about key findings and offer specific steps that educational institutions can take to combat persisting inequalities and forge pathways toward equity and inclusion. Learn more about UC PromISE here.
Department of Population Health and
Disease Prevention
Congratulations to Drs. Guiyun Yan and Oladele Ogunseitan who were recently identified as top 2% scientists in the world! Both are ranked in the top 1% of their fields, according to a Stanford University report released in November 2020. The list represents the top 3% of the most-cited scientists in various disciplines and includes 159,683 persons.
Dr. Oladele Ogunseitan recently presented an award for non-toxic neighborhoods to the City of Irvine and met with incoming Mayor of Irvine Farrah Khan, outgoing Mayor Christina Shea, and youths.
Dr. Ogunseitan stops for a picture with youths and incoming Mayor of Irvine Farrah Khan.
Outgoing Mayor of Irvine Christina Shea receives an award from Dr. Ogunseitan.
Lunchtime Lecture Series:
COVID-19 and Our Campus ft. David Souleles

In last week's Lunchtime Lecture, David M. Souleles, Director of the COVID-19 Response Team, provided updates about pandemic response on campus and how the UCI community can continue to come together to mitigate risks of the virus. Missed the event? Watch it here!


CUGH Tom Hall Education Grant

Congratulations to Dr. Oladele Ogunseitan for being selected to receive the Tom Hall Education Grant by the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH). The grant will support his project entitled "Delphi Procedure for Defining Next Generation Competencies for One Health".

Altshuler, S. L., Zhang, Q., Kleinman, M. T., Garcia-Menendez, F., Moore, C., Hough, M. L., Stevenson, E. D., Chow, J. C., Jaffe, D. A., & Watson, J. G. (2020). Wildfire and prescribed burning impacts on air quality in the United States. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (1995), 70(10), 961–970. https://doi.org/10.1080/10962247.2020.1813217

Previous critical reviews and discussions examined relationships between pollutant concentrations and health, but they are not specific to biomass burning (BB) exposures. These exposures occur sporadically so that most general population health effects studies are retrospectively conducted with ecological time series analyses. In this article, Dr. Michael Kleinman reviews an array of outcomes associated with BB exposure.
Kleinman, M. T., Arechavala, R. J., Herman, D., Shi, J., Hasen, I., Ting, A., Dai, W., Carreno, J., Chavez, J., Zhao, L., & Kloner, R. A. (2020). E-cigarette or Vaping Product Use-Associated Lung Injury Produced in an Animal Model From Electronic Cigarette Vapor Exposure Without Tetrahydrocannabinol or Vitamin E Oil. Journal of the American Heart Association, 9(18), e017368. https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.120.017368

E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury was recognized in the U.S. in the summer of 2019 and is typified by acute respiratory distress, shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and fever, associated with vaping. It can mimic many of the manifestations of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Some investigators have suggested that E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury was due to tetrahydrocannabinol or vitamin E acetate oil mixed with the electronic cigarette liquid.

In experimental rodent studies initially designed to study the effect of electronic cigarette use on the cardiovascular system, Dr. Michael Kleinman and team observed an E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury-like condition that occurred acutely after use of a nichrome heating element at high power, without the use of tetrahydrocannabinol, vitamin E, or nicotine. Electronic cigarette users should be cautioned about the potential danger of operating electronic cigarette units at high settings; the possibility that certain heating elements may be deleterious; and that E-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury may not be dependent upon tetrahydrocannabinol, vitamin E, or nicotine.
Ramanathan, G., Craver-Hoover, B., Arechavala, R. J., Herman, D. A., Chen, J. H., Lai, H. Y., Renusch, S. R., et al. (2020). E-Cigarette Exposure Decreases Bone Marrow Hematopoietic Progenitor Cells. Cancers, 12(8), 2292. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers12082292

Electronic cigarettes (E-cigs) generate nicotine containing aerosols for inhalation and have emerged as a popular tobacco product among adolescents and young adults, yet little is known about their health effects due to their relatively recent introduction. Few studies have assessed the long-term effects of inhaling E-cigarette smoke or vapor. Here, Dr. Michael Kleinman and team show that two months of E-cigarette exposure causes suppression of bone marrow hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Findings of this study reveal that chronic E-cigarette exposure for two months alters the bone marrow HSPC populations but does not affect HSC reconstitution in primary transplants.
Unconventional natural gas developments (UNGD) may release air and water pollutants into the environment, potentially increasing the risk of birth defects. In this study, Dr. Veronica Vieira and team conducted a case-control study evaluating 52,955 cases with birth defects and 642,399 controls born between 1999 and 2011 to investigate the relationship between UNGD exposure and the risk of gastroschisis, congenital heart defects (CHD), neural tube defects (NTDs), and orofacial clefts in Texas. Results of this study suggest that UNGDs are associated with some CHDs and possibly NTDs.
Masri, S., Simolaris, A., Hopfer, S., & Wu, J. (2020). Assessment of Climate Change Sentiment, Engagement and Adaptation through a Community-Based Outreach Campaign and Questionnaire across the United States. Earth, 1(1), 75–96. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/earth1010006

This study featuring Drs. Shahir Masri, Suellen Hopfer, Athina Simolaris, and Jun Wu described the results from a five-month campaign that included questionnaires (n = 500) and one-on-one interviews (n = 24) to assess climate change sentiment, engagement, adaptation, as well as understand who climate outreach reaches and the observations and concerns such groups report across the U.S. It helps inform elected officials, urban planners, and climate communicators as it relates to the allocation of resources for climate adaptation and education, and highlights key knowledge gaps that deserve focus by future outreach efforts.
Widyastuti, H.P., Norden-Krichmar, T.M., Grosberg, A. and Zaragoza, M. (2020). Gene expression profiling of fibroblasts in a family with LMNA-related cardiomyopathy reveals molecular pathways implicated in disease pathogenesis. BMC Medical Genetics, 21:152.

Intermediate filament proteins that construct the nuclear lamina of a cell include the Lamin A/C proteins encoded by the LMNA gene, and are implicated in fundamental processes such as nuclear structure, gene expression, and signal transduction. LMNA mutations predominantly affect cell lineages in diseases collectively termed as laminopathies that include dilated cardiomyopathy with conduction defects, different forms of muscular dystrophies, and premature aging syndromes as Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome. At present, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms regulating tissue-specific manifestations of laminopathies are still limited.

In this article, Dr. Trina Norden-Krichmar and team conducted deep RNA sequencing and pathway analysis for nine fibroblast samples obtained from three patients with cardiomyopathy, three unaffected family members, and three unrelated, unaffected individuals. They identified eight significantly differentially expressed genes between the mutant and non-mutant fibroblasts, that included downregulated insulin growth factor binding factor protein 5 (IGFBP5) in patient samples. IGFBP5 may contribute in maintaining signaling pathway homeostasis, which may lead to the absence of notable molecular and structural abnormalities in unaffected tissues such as fibroblasts. Their results provide insight into the molecular mechanism of disease with a possible explanation for the tissue specificity of LMNA-related dilated cardiomyopathy.
Brandon Osborn and Theresa Duong

Congratulations to Theresa Duong and Brandon Osborn for being selected to receive a 2020-2021 Public Impact Fellowship Award! The Public Impact Fellowship supports and highlights academically excellent students whose research demonstrates the potential to significantly improve or enrich the lives of people in California and beyond.

Brandon also received the Chancellor's Club Fund for Excellence Fellowship Award, which recognizes UCI's most academically excellent doctoral students who exhibit outstanding promise as scholars, researchers, and public leaders. Fellows are selected for academic excellence, accomplishments, and leadership qualities consistent with the mission of the Chancellor's Club to represent, develop, and support our future leaders.

Please join us in congratulating Theresa and Brandon on these wonderful achievements!
Xiaochen Liu

Congratulations to Xiaochen Liu, doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (PI: Trina Norden-Kichmar), for successfully advancing to candidacy in November!
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