The BbRL’s current research portfolio aims at unraveling the underlying biological, and potentially epigenetic, mechanisms through which combined exposures to psychosocial and environmental factors increase the risk of mental and cardiovascular illness, particularly among young vulnerable populations.

The BbRL is currently supporting the conduction of the following studies at UTEP’s School of Nursing:

  • Nursing Engagement and Nursing Study (NEWS): Through the NEWS study, we are learning how a pro-inflammatory phenotype when combined with prolonged exposure to inflammatory stressors (e.g., psychosocial stress, poor diet, chemicals, air pollution) might accelerate the development of depression, environmental sensitivities, and cardiovascular disease. We are studying how an increased susceptibility to work-related stress -programmed by childhood adversity- might be increasing the risk of depressive symptoms and cardiovascular disease among nurses. Ultimately, we intend to inform the development of timely interventions at the school of nursing to help us better prepare our nursing population and improve their health and wellbeing.
  • Life Stress, Particulate Matter Exposure, and Inflammatory Reactivity: In this study, we will determine if a pro-inflammatory phenotype can be characterized among individuals reporting varying levels of adverse childhood experiences via their cytokine reactivity to short-term exposures to psychosocial stress and traffic air pollution. Ultimately, through this study we want to learn how to accurately define and establish a pro-inflammatory phenotype to study how it might increase the effect of known risk factors of chronic illnesses with inflammation-related etiologies.
  • Enhancement of Coronary Constriction by Volatile Organic Air Toxics: In this study, we will determine if traffic-related air pollution mixtures of volatile organic compounds and freshly generated particle are inducing more dramatic cardiovascular health effects than particles in isolation. This study consist of time- and location-controlled acute exposures to traffic-related air to ascertain the toxic impact of particulate and gaseous components of near-roadway emissions on blood pressure, circulating biomarkers, vascular and pulmonary endpoints.
  • Depression Among Youth From Housing Communities; The role of life stress: In this study, developed in collaboration with the Alpha Youth Leadership Academy via a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, explores the relationship between a pro-inflammatory phenotype induced by childhood adversity, chronic air pollution and stress exposure, and depressive symptoms among youth living in government-subsidized housing (GSH) communities in El Paso, Texas. Specifically, we want to determine if adversity experienced before the age of 15 years, increases the inflammatory reactivity to air pollution and stress exposure and consequently amplifies the risk of depression among young adults.