West Virginia University Logo

Olfert Lab

I. Mark Olfert, Principal Investigator

Project Name:  Mechanisms of pulmonary and cardiovascular dysfunction to acute and chronic exposure to environmental pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapor, nicotine, and nanomaterials.

Description: We are using a comprehensive series of state-of-the-art technologies to examine cardiac, pulmonary and vascular function, in conjunction with acute and chronic exposure to varying pollutants, to investigate and study the mechanisms responsible for central and peripheral vascular dysfunction leading to cardiovascular disease (CVD), as well as the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Current studies focus on multi-walled carbon nanomaterial (MWCNT), e-cigarette vapor and the direct effects of nicotine.

Statement of Importance:  Smoking causes 1 of 5 deaths in the US each year, and of these ~1/3 are attributable to cardiovascular disease, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes mellitus, peripheral vascular disease, and other heart/vascular disorders. West Virginia leads the nation in the number of adult smokers (at ~28%), and alarmingly it is estimated that nearly 20% of high school age children, and 8.3% of middle school students, also admit to smoking. Although proponents for E-cigarettes state that electronic (e)-cigarettes are ‘safer’ or a ‘safe’ alternative to traditional cigarettes, long-term studies substituting these claims are lacking. To the contrary, emerging evidence suggests nicotine and E-cigarettes are equally likely to contribute to lung and cardiovascular disease, but mechanisms involved are poorly understand.

Students: Matt Breit, Hannah Hoskins

Collaborators: Zhongxin Wu PhD; Brett Erdreich MD; Piyali Dasgupta PhD (Marshall Univ.)


Project Name:   Impact of Fruit & Vegetables on the Metabolic, Microbiotic and Cardiovascular Health

Description: The FRUVEDomic project, funded by the NIH-supported WVCTSI and WVU Mountains of Excellence Award, is a multi-disciplinary team of scientists that is comprehensively analyzing how diet and macronutrients alter the microbiome (microbes in the gut) and metabolome (metabolites circulating in the blood) in the context of cardiovascular health and obesity. 

Statement of Importance:  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2.7 million lives are lost each year due to low or inadequate dietary consumption of fruit and vegetables, and that low fruit vegetable consumption is among the top 10 selected risks factors for global mortality. Nutrition choice and dietary patterns are recognized as important determinants in maintaining health and the etiology of chronic disease, such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension, but molecular-level evidence for the benefits of therapeutic diets, and links to biomarkers to help individualize diet plans that will help to better understand the role of diet in disease progression has remained elusive. The diversity of expertise and scientific disciplines that comprise the FRUVEDomic team allow us to comprehensively explore and use innovative strategies and technology to better understand and characterize the effect of diet and nutrients on physiologic and metabolic responses in health and disease, in manner that could not be accomplished by any single discipline or investigator. These efforts are important for the Appalachian region, and West Virginia in particular, due to recognized disparate incidence of obesity and cardiovascular disease compared to other US states and regions.

Students: Oluremi Famodu MS RD; MaKenzie Barr MS; Alice Mathews; Zachary Phipps;  Breit; Danielle Kesner; Mark Buerkle; Corey Moore

Collaborators: Melissa Olfert DrPH RD; Joe McFadden PHD; Chris Cuff PhD; Pamela Murray MD MHP; Marianne Downes PhD; Paul Chantler PhD