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Dr. Sarah Blossom’s research goal is to advance understanding of how environmental exposures, primarily to the solvent and common environmental pollutant trichloroethylene (TCE), alter CD4+ T cell function. She approaches her research from a mechanistic and pathways perspective. Dr. Blossom’s research has shown that the CD4+ T cell is central to the autoimmune pathology in the liver. She has served as the Principal Investigator on an NIH R21 and is currently the Principal Investigator on an NIH K02 career development award; she is also working on defining the role of the CD4+ T cell and accompanying inflammation in neurological oxidative stress and behavioral abnormalities observed in her model. While studying neurodevelopment/behavior may be seen as a departure from Dr. Blossom’s existing focus, she notes the only way to fully understand the effects of TCE on the brain, liver, or other organs where she has seen pathology is to determine the mechanism of how TCE affects its primary target: the CD4+ T cell. In her recently completed R01 (R01ES021484) grant award, she used whole genome toxicogenomics approaches to investigate epigenetic mechanisms that may be responsible for TCE immunotoxicity of CD4+ T cells that are already differentiated in vivo. Dr. Blossom’s work attempts to understand how TCE alters the dynamic methylation pattern generated during differentiation to effector CD4+ T cells.
In 2016, Dr. Blossom accepted the invitation to be a Scientific Technical Advisor for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry-Camp LeJeune Community Assistance Panel at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta based on her expertise in the immunotoxicity of TCE. She is also the Principal Investigator on two clinical studies to correlate the maternal immune response and infant outcome in diabetic pregnancy. Dr. Blossom also collaborates with various clinical investigators at UAMS to study the role of the inflammatory response in major depression. In addition, she is also involved in the section of Birth Defects Research’s “Birth Defects Study to Evaluate Pregnancy exposureS (BD-STEPS).”