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  • Department Chair and Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences) and of Ophthalmology and Visual Science and of Environment

    Research Interests
    • Alcoholism
    • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
    • Diabetes Mellitus
    • Environmental Health
    • Glutathione
    • Gout
    • Ophthalmology
    • Genomics

    Vasilis Vasiliou, is Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences. He received his BSc in Chemistry (1983) and PhD in Biochemical Pharmacology (1988) from the University of Ioannina, Greece. He then trained in gene-environment interactions, molecular toxicology and pharmacogenetics at the Department of Environmental Health in the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (1991-1995). In 1996, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy where he rose through the ranks to become Professor and Director of the Toxicology Graduate Program. Since 2008, he was also Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In July 2014, he joined the faculty of Yale University in his new position.

    Professor Vasiliou has established an internationally-recognized research program that has been continuously funded by NEI/NIH and NIAAA/NIH since 1997, and recently NIEHS. His research interests include the etiology and molecular mechanisms of environmentally-induced human disease, such as liver disease, obesity & diabetes, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases. His research focuses on the means by which the exposome (total exposures throughout life), metabolism (specifically aldehyde dehydrogenases and cytochrome P-450s) and antioxidants (glutathione and catalase) contribute to human health and disease. His laboratory utilizes state-of-the-art integrated system approaches that include metabolomics, lipidomics, exposomics, tissue imaging mass spectrometry, deep-learning, as well as human cohorts and genetically-engineered mouse models in order to elucidate mechanisms, and to discover biomarkers and novel interventions for human disease. 

    In addition to his funded NIH-research portfolio, Dr. Vasiliou is the director of the NIAAA-funded R24-Resource Center for Mouse Models and Metabolomics Tools to Investigate Alcohol Metabolism and Tissue Injury.

    Dr. Vasiliou has published over 200 papers and edited three books on Alcohol and Cancer. Dr. Vasiliou is the editor of Human Genomics and serves on the editorial boards of several toxicology and visual sciences journals.

    Professor Vasiliou is committed to training the next generation of scientists. At the University of Colorado he was the Director of the Environmental and Molecular Toxicology Graduate Program for 15 years.  At Yale he leads an NIAAA-funded T32 Translational Alcohol Research Program (TARP) Training Program for post-doctoral fellows, and an NIHES -funded R25 Summer Research Experience in Environmental Health (SREEH) Training Program that introduce undergraduate students in Connecticut (CT) to Environmental Health Research. Dr. Vasiliou has trained mentored and advised more than 60 trainees ranging from MPH and PhD students to postdoctoral fellows and junior faculties.

  • Medical Student

    Nicholas Apostolopoulos is a medical student at Yale School of Medicine, currently completing his medical school thesis in Dr. Vasilis Vasiliou’s lab since the summer of 2016. His research focuses on understanding the role of corneal crystallins ALDH3A1 and ALDH1A1 in ocular physiology and pathophysiology during oxidative stress. His current project aims to address the biological role of crytallin proteins as metabolic enzymes in cornea, lens and retina by utilizing both Aldh3a1/Aldh1a1 knockout and knock-in mouse models. In addition, he studies the role of glutathione (GSH) in the eye development using a mouse strain in which GSH biosynthesis is selectively abolished in surface ectoderm-derived ocular structures. The results so far suggest that GSH plays a critical role in ocular development, and further studies are underway to identify molecular details involved in this process. 

    Research Interests
    Molecular Biology, Genomics, Ophthalmic Genetics, Clinical Ophthalmology, Eye Diseases, Technology Development

  • Associate Research Scientist in Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences)

    Georgia Charkoftaki received her pharmacy degree from the University of Athens, Greece, where she also earned a MSC in drug delivery and a PhD in biopharmaceutics-pharmacokinetics. In August 2013 she moved to the University Colorado Denver to start a postdoc in clinical and translational science, focusing on kidney related diseases. Charkoftaki studied the pharmacokinetics of cyclophosphamide in patients undergoing dialysis and how Vitamin D affects drug metabolism in the kidneys, among other projects. At Yale she has focused on metabolomics working with Waters Xevo G2 QTof and molecular biology. Her main project is a study the importance of aldehyde dehydrogenases (ALDHs) on cancer and diabetes and the discovery of new potential drug targets.

  • Research Scientist in Epidemiology (Environmental Health Sciences)

    Research Interests
    • Digestive System Diseases
    • Disorders of Environmental Origin
    • Nervous System Diseases
    • Nutritional and Metabolic Diseases

    Ying Chen has a broad background in environmental genetics and molecular toxicology, with specific training and expertise in redox biology, oxidative stress related disease and transgenic animal models of glutathione (GSH) deficiency. Her research in the past over ten years has focused on understanding the mechanistic roles of GSH redox homeostasis in human disease conditions related to environmental (including dietary) exposures. Other ongoing research projects in the Vasiliou lab include studies of: (i) the mechanistic roles of ALDH1B1 in alcohol-associated colon cancer, and (ii) the functional roles of ALDH1A1/3A1 in corneal pathophysiology.<_o3a_p>

  • I am a 3rd year combined PhD student in the departments of Environmental Health Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health and Cellular & Molecular Physiology at the Yale School of Medicine. Broadly, I study the relationship between oxidative stress, the health of the pancreatic islet, and diabetes. Markers of oxidative stress, the imbalance between reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and antioxidant defenses, are commonly detected in pre-diabetic and diabetic patients. Glutathione is the most abundant intracellular antioxidant and depletion causes oxidative stress. In islets, derived from diabetic patients, reduced glutathione biosynthesis has been associated with dysfunctional glucose metabolism and impaired insulin secretion. However, the regulation of islet cell metabolism and insulin secretion by glutathione remains insufficiently described. Specifically, I employ novel transgenic mouse models and mammalian cell culture systems to study the role of glutathione in islet physiology. To this end, my project seeks to determine the implications of glutathione depletion in the development and function of the islet by integrating molecular methods with “omics” (metabolomics, redox proteomics) and allied mass spectrometry-based metabolic analysis. Thus far, we have determined that embryonic islet glutathione biosynthesis is essential for neonatal islet development (publication in process). These studies will help elucidate the complex mechanisms underpinning the role of oxidative stress in the development and progression of diabetes.  

  • Tristan Furnary is a second year Master of Public Health candidate in the Yale School of Public Health’s Environmental Health Science (EHS) department. He is also a recent graduate of Yale College who majored in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Human Health and the Environment (B.S.) His research focuses on understanding the role of over the counter drugs and environmental toxins in the developmental origins of neurological abnormalities in children. His current aim is to address the effects of non-prescription drugs on the development of neuronal progenitor cells. In addition, he works with Dr. Zeyan Liew at Yale’s Center for Perinatal, Pediatric and Environmental Epidemiology (CPPEE) in partnership with the Yale Child Study Center in a pilot study investigating household and environmental influences on the development of irritability and behavioral problems in children and adolescents. Previous research includes working in Dr. Paul Anastas’ Yale Center for Green Chemistry and Environmental Engineering on characterization and bioremediation projects.

  • I am a 2nd year PhD student in the department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. I am interested in the risk assessment of environmental exposures and health effects of environmental factors. I graduated from Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 2019. Previously, my research focused on the evaluation of the environmental contaminants in the Yangtze River and the reproductive health effects of metal pollutants in male residents in Wuhan. Currently at Yale, I am interested in studying the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are synthetic chemicals found in many consumer products, and their health effects on general population.

  • Discussion Leader

    Brian Thompson is a second-year doctoral student in Environmental Health Sciences at Yale University where he has gained experience from his teaching fellowship roles in both the Introductory Biostatistics and Introductory Toxicology courses. His research interests include understanding how cells of the central nervous system respond to both endogenous and exogenous stressors. His interest in climate change grew from a belief that climate change is the most consequential problem facing the world in the 21st century. Prior to his doctoral studies, Brian obtained a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

    Ocular development is composed of a carefully orchestrated set of events that are easily perturbed, which results in a syndrome of diseases termed MAC (microphthalmia, anophthalmia and coloboma). For decades, previous research has largely been focused on elucidating the role of transcription factors in directing eye development. However, it is increasingly realized that oxidative stress also plays an important role in the eye development process. Despite these realizations, much remains to be known about the mechanisms by which oxidative stress influences eye development. I aim to address this knowledge gap through my investigation of an oxidative-stress induced microphthalmia mouse model with several -omics (i.e., RNA-seq, proteomics, ChIP-seq) and advanced experimental (i.e., immunoprecipitations, CUT&RUN) techniques. Through my research, I am elucidating the role of oxidative stress in shaping the epigenome during the eye development process.