May 24, 2018

Shum and collaborators unveil new maternal and fetal health risks associated with shellfish toxin

Pharmaceutics graduate student Sara Shum with her award-winning ASPET poster

Pharmaceutics graduate student Sara Shum with her award-winning ASPET poster

Pharmaceutics graduate student Sara Shum recently presented and won an award for the preliminary results from a study of the shellfish toxin domoic acid. The project is a collaboration with Professor Tom Burbacher and Senior Research Scientist Kimberly Grant of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the UW School of Public Health and Sara and Professor Nina Isoherranen the Department of Pharmaceutics. Their findings suggest potential health risks associated with long-term exposure to low levels of domoic acid.

Domoic acid is a naturally occurring toxin produced by certain marine algae and it can cause fatal central nervous system toxicity in people and animals that consume highly contaminated shellfish. Although government policies limit exposure to DA by closing harvesting of shellfish when levels are over 20 ppm to reduce risks of toxicity from short-term exposure, the effects of long-term low-level exposure are not known.

In a study of 30 pregnant monkeys, the group found that chronic, low-level oral intake of domoic acid was associated with subtle signs of neurological effects, such as increased tremor frequency in adult females and delays in cognitive development of prenatally exposed infants.

The researchers note that these new findings suggest that the current government policies may need to be changed to protect communities from health effects due to chronic exposure to DA via shellfish consumption.

Sara received the second place award in the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) annual meeting at Experimental Biology graduate student poster competition. The title of her poster was “Maternal Fetal Toxicokinetics of the Shellfish Toxin Domoic Acid.” Working with Nina Isoherranen, Sara’s research focuses on elucidating and predicting pharmacokinetics changes during pregnancy, especially predicting maternal to fetal transfer.

For more information, please contact: Tom Burbacher (tmb@uw.edu) and Kimberly Grant (ksg@uw.edu) in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences in the UW School of Public Health or Nina Isoherranen (ni2@uw.edu) in the Department of Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy.

 

To study with peers in Pharmaceutics like Sara Shum and faculty like Dr. Nina Isoherranen, click on the link for more information about our PhD Program in Pharmaceutics.

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