Environmental Health Sciences Associate Professor, Michael Bloom, Receives NIH Grant

Michael Bloom, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University at Albany School of Public Health has received a one year NIH grant in the amount of $303,365 to conduct a pilot study called “The Study of Metals and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SMART).”

Michael S. BloomThis study is to be the first step in designing a definitive method to identify modifiable risk factors to maximize in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates and to minimize racial reproductive disparities. Working in conjunction with co-investigators from the University of California at San Francisco, the University at Buffalo, and the Wadsworth Center at the New York State Department of Health, Dr. Bloom and his team will identify the relationship between exposure to toxic metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury as well as activity levels of six key anti-oxidant enzymes in order to determine their impact on IVF. Asian women are less likely to have successful IVF compared to their white counterparts and according to recent CDC data they are more likely to have higher body burdens of toxic metals. A study of this nature addresses the 2020 NIH Office of Women’s Health 2020 Strategic Plan to “identify and validate sex-specific biomarkers for infertility and IVF prognosis” and to “examine reproductive health disparities.”

Currently, the method used for IVF may involve transfer of several embryos at once, based on clinical factors, to maximize the likelihood of at least one live birth. However, this strategy also increases the probability for multiple gestations, and the inherent health risks to mother and offspring. The ultimate aim of this research is to maximize the probability for a live birth following transfer of a single embryo. The first goal of the pilot study will be to measure the levels of toxic metals and anti-oxidant activity in ovarian follicular fluid (FF) and to characterize sources of variability between follicles, ovaries and women.
The team will then consider various demographic, clinical and health-related behaviors, as well as the use of traditional and complementary therapies (like Chinese herbs) as predictors of metals variability. In addition to this component, the study will also collect semen specimens from the partners of the study volunteers to evaluate longitudinal changes in toxic metals and to assess the IVF impact of exposures in men.

The long term goal of the “SMART” pilot study will be to use the analyzed samples collected over time to modify and plan a larger study to trace exposures of toxic metals on IVF outcomes to address an important identified public health disparity.