Deborah Cory-Slechta Receives the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award

By Brian Cummings posted 02-11-2021 02:32 PM


Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD

Deborah Cory-Slechta, PhD, has been awarded the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award in honor of her scientific achievements and contributions to public health in the fields of environmental health sciences and toxicology.

Dr. Cory-Slechta is currently a Professor of environmental medicine, pediatrics, and public health sciences at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where she trains and mentors a number of scholastically recognized students via hands-on, project-oriented teaching, as well as offering support and mentorship to junior faculty members. She also is the Deputy Director of the Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Dr. Cory-Slechta is a world-renowned behavioral psychologist and neurotoxicologist, and her work has provided mechanistic support for understanding the consequences of lead exposure in developing animals and humans. Her studies combine powerful hypothesis-generating screening tools with rigorous hypothesis-driven research questions to systematically test xenobiotic-induced neurotoxicity. Dr. Cory-Slechta has championed behavioral batteries for the assessment of neurotoxicity, developing new methodologies and asserting the importance of early changes in behavior as markers of aberrant neurodevelopment and neurotoxicity. She developed sensitive behavioral tasks to enable translation and validation of her animal work to human populations, which has significantly contributed to the recognition that levels of lead exposure previously thought of as safe are likely causing damage to children, particularly those that have additional risk factors. Dr. Cory-Slechta’s studies have led to a paradigm shift and recognition by federal agencies of the necessity to include developmental neurotoxicity studies in the assessment of ill effects of xenobiotics, particularly as they pertain to the nervous system.

Dr. Cory-Slechta’s scientific influence is demonstrated by an enormous number of invited research presentations worldwide as well as her sustained publication repertoire, which includes over 190 published manuscripts in high-impact journals. In addition, her laboratory since its establishment has received continual funding by the National Institutes of Health, a testament to her outstanding leadership and research.

Since joining SOT in 1983, Dr. Cory-Slechta has served as Chair of the SOT Awards Committee; as a member of the Education and Nominating Committees; as Councilor of the Metals Specialty Section; and as Councilor and President of the Neurotoxicology Specialty Section. Her efforts were recognized through her receipt of the 2017 Neurotoxicology Specialty Section Distinguished Neurotoxicologist Award. In addition to service to SOT, Dr. Cory-Slechta is on the Editorial Boards of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, Toxicology, and NeuroToxicology and is a reviewer for a multitude of study sections for the National Institutes of Health, US Environmental Protection Agency, and other granting bodies, among numerous other institutional commitments.

EDITOR’S SIDEBAR: 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award Lecture at the 60th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo

Dr. Cory-Slechta will deliver the 2021 SOT Distinguished Toxicology Scholar Award Lecture on Thursday, March 18 from 10:00 am to 11:00 am (US EDT, UTC -4). The topic of Dr. Cory-Slechta’s lecture is “Air Pollution as a Risk Factor for Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Neurodegenerative Diseases.” The lecture abstract is as follows:

Epidemiological evidence links air pollution (AP) to neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and neurodegenerative diseases (NDGDs). Our studies of inhalation exposures of mice to concentrated ambient ultrafine particles (CAPS) provide biological plausibility for these associations and have begun to examine specific AP contaminants that may underlie these effects. Early postnatal (human third-trimester brain equivalent) CAPS inhalation produced persistent male-biased neuropathological and behavioral features of NDDs, while females showed latent neurotoxicity. Gestational CAPS exposures produced similar neuropathology across sexes, but also increased total brain levels of amyloid and tau in the frontal cortex and hippocampus of females, features of NDGDs. Cumulative neurotoxicity was found following early postnatal + subsequent adult CAPS exposures. Postnatal CAPS exposures markedly elevated brain levels of redox active metals, including Fe and Cu, consistent with brain metal dyshomeostasis, a known feature/mechanism of NDGDs, suggesting oxidative stress/ferroptotic cell death mechanisms. Fe nanoparticle inhalation reproduced specific neuropathology of CAPS in both sexes, and in females, increased total tau, and blunted the time-related increase in numbers of nucleus accumbens neurons. With respect to organic AP contaminants, subchronic inhalation of paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease (PD), produced significant brain uptake and persistent male-specific deficits in motor function, olfactory discrimination, and midbrain dopamine loss, characteristic PD features. AP with its associated contaminants may be a far-reaching risk factor for NDDs and NDGDs, underscoring the urgent need for additional inhalation models of sex-based critical periods of vulnerability and associated mechanisms.