Research Priorities

The goal of HHEAR is to provide infrastructure for adding or expanding exposure analysis to advance understanding of the impact of environmental exposures on human health throughout the life course. The program places a priority on HHEAR applications with well-crafted studies that are supported by clearly formed hypotheses and adequate statistical power to address them, and as such, pilot-scale studies are not appropriate. The following sections highlight the research priorities for HHEAR analyses by funding agency.

NIEHS Priorities for HHEAR Analyses:

As the primary funder of HHEAR, the NIEHS extends eligibility to all NIEHS funded studies that have human or environmental samples related to a human health endpoint, including projects funded through the Superfund Research Program (NOTE: for SRP funded projects services are limited to analysis of environmental matrices and untargeted analysis of biological samples). The major emphases of these studies should be on extending the exposure analyses of the parent grant and to support the harmonization of data generated across NIEHS funded studies. Ultimately, the goal of HHEAR analyses is to fulfill the promise of the exposome and aligning the complex interactions between multiple exposures in multiple biological endpoints in distinct life stages.

Some specific priorities include:

  • Analysis of exposures over multiple time points and life stages
  • Analysis of the combined effects of exposure to multiple panels of chemical classes
  • Integration of external exposures (through analysis of environmental matrices) with biomarkers of exposure
  • Cross-validation of targeted and untargeted analyses to demonstrate the validity of untargeted discovery

NCI Priorities for HHEAR Analyses:

As a participating funding partner of HHEAR, the NCI extends eligibility to all NCI-funded studies that are prospectively conducted, have human samples related to a cancer endpoint, and have over one year of funding support remaining at the time of application.

Studies should adhere to the goals of the HHEAR initiative by extending the exposure analyses of the parent grant and supporting the harmonization of data generated across NCI-funded studies. In addition, NCI is prioritizing studies that can address methodological limitations in environmental exposure assessment in epidemiologic research and better understand how the complexities of environmental exposures effect cancer risk.

NCI priorities include, but are not limited to:

  • Analysis of exposures over serial and/or multiple time points and life stages that investigate exposure variability
  • Studies where questionnaire and biospecimen collection capture biological windows that may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of environmental exposures
  • Studies analyzing compounds of emerging scientific interest in relation to cancer, such as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) or halogenated flame retardants
  • Investigations of chemical mixtures or combined exposures on cancer or cancer related pathways
  • Analyses of DNA or protein adducts arising from environmental exposures

NHLBI Priorities for HHEAR analysis:

As a co-funder of HHEAR along with NCI and NIEHS (primary funding IC), NHLBI has determined eligibility criteria to include current NHLBI-funded studies that have biological samples to be utilized for targeted and untargeted analysis. Applicants should demonstrate either the expansion of their study to include the assessment and impact of environmental exposures or the leverage of existing datasets to address these scientific goals. Ultimately, the purpose of HHEAR analyses for NHLBI funded studies is to improve our knowledge of the comprehensive effects of environmental exposures on human health throughout the life course particularly related to heart, lung, blood, and sleep (HLBS) conditions.

Specific priorities and topics of interest include:

  • Leveraging biospecimens from NHLBI cohort studies to understand the contribution of environmental factors in the development of HLBS conditions
  • Delineating gene x environment interactions leveraging the resources within TOPMed and through the incorporation of transcriptomic/proteomic/metabolomic measures of environmental exposure
  • Understanding the contribution of environmental exposures on health disparity and high risk populations
  • Quantifying specific nutritional biomarkers and their interactions with environmental toxicants in relationship to cardiovascular health and disease
  • Utilizing biospecimens collected during early life (postpartum through adults) to assess environmental influences on HLBS health and disease throughout the lifetime