Toxicology and Societies: Debra MacKenzie

Dr. Debra MacKenzie

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Title: Legacy Exposure to Environmental Metals/Metalloids on Navajo Nation: Overview of Navajo Birth Cohort Study and Thinking Zinc Clinical Trial.

The Navajo Birth Cohort Study (NBCS) is a large-scale, well characterized prospective cohort study assessing the relationships between environmental exposures to metal contaminants associated with abandoned uranium mines on birth outcomes and child development in a tribal population.  We have documented that individuals on Navajo Nation experience contamination to uranium that exceed national norms and that these exposures occur throughout the life-span.  Our data demonstrates that mixed metal exposures are associated with both elevated inflammatory processes and increased risk of pre-term birth. In another study, we are investigating the potential benefit of providing supplemental zinc to reduce metals toxicity within adult populations on Navajo.  This study is based on mechanistic data demonstrating that both arsenic and uranium can displace zinc in zinc-binding proteins causing functional disruption.  Preliminary data demonstrates decreased biomarkers of oxidative stress with increased zinc levels, providing support for our hypothesis that zinc supplementation could provide a low-cost, readily implementable approach to reducing metals toxicity at a population level. 

About the Speaker: Debra MacKenzie, University of New Mexico

Dr. MacKenzie is Research Assistant Professor in the University of New Mexico (UNM)  College of Pharmacy.  She is co-director of the Community Environmental Health Program (founded and co-directed by Dr. Johnnye Lewis) and is MPI, with Dr. Lewis, of the Navajo Birth Cohort Study (NBCS), a participating cohort in NIH’s Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program.  She is Co-Lead with Dr. Laurie Hudson on the Thinking Zinc Clinical Trial, conducted through the UNM METALS Superfund Center.  She is also MPI of the UNM Center of Excellence (P50), “Native Environmental Health Equity Center”.  Her background is in virology, immunology and toxicology, receiving her PhD from the University of New Mexico and her post-doctoral training at the University of Wisconsin. 


A recording of this presentation is available. 


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