Graduate Student Awarded UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Fellowship

One of only four recipients of the fellowship, UC Riverside’s Neema Adhami will work on a research project focusing on the effect on offspring of mothers exposed to thirdhand smoke

UC Riverside graduate student Neema Adhami has been awarded a UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Fellowship. Martins-Green lab, UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Neema Adhami, a graduate student working with Manuela Martins-Green, a professor of cell biology and neuroscience at the University of California, Riverside, is one of only four students (and one of only two graduate students) to receive the new UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Fellowship Award.

The goal of the fellowships, open to all UC undergraduate and graduate students, is to develop the next generation of leaders in reducing the harms and social costs from smoking and use of tobacco products worldwide. Fellows are expected to conduct their proposed projects within a year.

“Neema is an excellent student, very smart and eager to make a difference in the field of thirdhand smoke-induced damage to health,” Martins-Green said.  “He is an author on two seminal papers in this field, one showing that exposure to thirdhand smoke toxins leads to a pre-diabetic condition that mimics the initial stages of type II diabetes and the other confirming experimentally observations made by physicians that children living in the homes of smokers can develop many behavioral problems including hyperactivity.  The latter paper was instrumental in helping pass California Assembly Bill 1819 CHAPTER 459 that prohibits smoking after hours, inside and outside, in home daycare centers.”

The UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Fellowship supports a project that Adhami will work closely on with Martins-Green. It will involve elucidating the effects of prenatal thirdhand smoke (THS) exposure in mice, on offspring of mothers exposed to THS before and after conception. It is titled “In-utero THS exposure and its effects on the health of the offspring.” All the research will be done at UC Riverside.

“We will be looking at onset of metabolic and mitochondrial diseases in these mice,” Adhami said. “We are already showing a great deal of damage to the general health and mitochondrial function of these offspring and we hope to shed light on the dangers of THS exposure to pregnant mothers and how this can cause irreversible health problems in their children later in life. Our goal is to bring awareness to the campus and also the world about the dangers of THS toxins.”

Adhami’s Ph.D. project has currently been on the effects of postnatal THS exposure resulting in insulin resistance.

“This grant was a perfect opportunity to expand on this work and focus on the prenatal period and how exposure can affect it,” he said.

He said the $12,000 fellowship provides great support in enabling him to focus on getting data.

“Because it will be highly publicized in the UC community the fellowship will spread awareness about the dangers of smoke toxins and more specifically THS,” he said.

Adhami expects to graduate from UCR with a doctoral degree in 2017.

“My plans are to stay in academia and research, so I will take up a postdoctoral position before I can pursue that,” he said. “My research focus will continue to be in toxicology as well as addiction and the brain.”

The other three students who won the UC Smoke and Tobacco Free Fellowships are at UC San Francisco, UCLA and UC San Diego. The four fellows started their one-year terms earlier this month. The awards are being administered by UC’s Tobacco Related-Disease Research Program.

On January 2, 2014, UCR joined more than 1,500 colleges and universities nationwide in the adoption of a campuswide smoke/tobacco-free policy.

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