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Dr Kelly BéruBé 


Research Interest Areas

The LPRG specialises in ‘Molecular Environmental Health’, with a research focus on the “determination of intelligent biomarkers of exposure and harm” in the respiratory system following exposure to aerial xenobiotics (Figure 1).

Scanning electron microscopy image of combustion-derived soot particles

Figure 1. Scanning electron microscopy image of combustion-derived soot particles deposited in the bronchial epithelium. Note the abundance of cillia covering the surface of the epithelium.  The presence of red blood cells denotes tissue injury.

The aerosols may be derived from anthropogenic (man-made; combustion-derived, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals), biogenic (biological; pollen, fungal spores and insect detritus), technogenic sources (industry; smelter and coal fly-ash) and geogenic (natural; volcanic ash and eroded earth minerals) (Figure 2) sources.

Scanning EM image of different sources of ambient particulate pollution

Figure 2. Scanning electron microscopy image of the different sources of ambient particulate pollution (e.g. PM10; particulate matter 10 microns or less). Note the heterogeneity of particle types in a typical urban PM10 sample. 

Conducting research in this highly complex inter-disciplinary topic requires a structured coordination of expertise and contributions from various scientific disciplines including Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Medicine and Engineering. Understanding “mechanisms of human health effects caused by ambient aerosols” requires knowledge of the differential particle and gas phase effects. State-of-the-art technologies for comprehensive molecular characterisation of both the biological responses and the exposure characteristics are applied together with chemo-metric and bio-statistical analyses to achieve a ‘holistic approach’ towards inhalation toxicology (Figure 3).

Flow chart

Figure 3. Flow chart of steps involved in the holistic approach to particle toxicology and discovery of biomarkers of exposure and harm in the respiratory system.

Biomarkers (e.g. physical, chemical, inter-omic) of exposure and harm to indoor and outdoor air pollutants are identified using advanced in vitro aerosol exposure systems. Innovative human tissue-engineered equivalent models of the respiratory epithelia are employed to bridge the gap between the observed human health effects and air pollution-dependent lung injury and disease (Figure 4).

Schematic diagram for recapitulation of a human lung construct

Figure 4. Schematic diagram for recapitulation of a human lung construct from medical waste tissue derived from the bronchial epithelium (i.e. proximal lung compartment).

Biological responses, which can subsequently lead to health effects and diseases, are observed after exposure to aerosols, with reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive organic components (ROC) in the particulate and gas phases, along with their synergistic effects, the focal points of our investigations that encompass the following research aims:

  • Identification and quantification of ROS in relevant aerosol sources (e.g. traffic, wood combustion, incense burning, coal fly ash, cooking fumes, pharmaceuticals, cigarette smoke, cosmetics etc.); characterisation of the gas/particle partition of ROC
  • Development of in vitro ROS bio-assay (acellular/cellular) test systems for studies of effects induced by aerosol exposure
  • Exposure of these test systems to fresh aerosol emissions and aged aerosols from relevant sources
  • Differentiation between impact of the total aerosol and impact of the particulate phase and the gas phase
  • Analytical methods for comprehensive profiling of small molecules in biological systems and aerosol exposure
  • Toxicological characterisation and comprehensive response analysis at different hierarchical inter-omic levels (e.g. transcriptom, proteom, metabolom) of the biological test systems, in order to reveal exposure dependent alterations
  • Integrated chemo-metric and bio-statistical analysis of the data.

Recent Grants Awarded

  • Physicochemistry and toxicology of indoor source particles in Hong Kong; General Research Fund, Hong Kong Government, China. 2013-2016: Ho, K-F. (PI) & BéruBé K. (Co-PI)
  • Expanding networks within the scientific community: in vitro lung toxicology of combustion-derived particulate matter from vehicles, wood burners and ships. Helmholtz Virtual Institute of Complex Molecular Systems in Environmental Health (HICE), DFG. 2012-2017: Zimmerman, R. (PI) & BéruBé, K. (Co-PI & International Partner)
  • Toxicological analysis of wood smoke particulates from different species of trees. Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen, DFG. 2013-2014: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • EUROCHAMP-2 translational access activity award: Year 2 PhD student (Hsiao-Chi Chuang) to identify reactive organic compounds in incense smoke. University of Cork, Ireland. 2012: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • EU research studentship. Doctus-Malopolska Scholarship Fund, European Social Fund, State Budget Human Capital Operational Programme. 2012: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • Air quality studies and toxicology (BREATHE). Spanish Government. 2012-2013: Moreno, T. (PI), Jones, T., BéruBé, K. (Co-PI)
  • Biotransformation Lung Model. Welsh Assembly Government UK. 2011-2013: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Characterisation of surgical smoke particles. Asalus Medical Instruments Ltd. UK. 2011-2012: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • Toxicogenomics of mainstream cigarette smoke: in vitro versus in vivo investigation. Institute Science Health, USA. 2010-2011: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Physicochemical characteristics of ambient air particles responsible for dysregulation of pulmonary genes. Natural Environment Research Council UK. 2008-2011: Matthews, I (PI) & BéruBé, K. (Co-PI)
  • Respiratory toxicity of technogenic particles. Medical Research Council UK. 2008-2011: BéruBé, K. (PI) & Jones, T.
  • Intelligent biomarkers of exposure and harm in the respiratory epithelium following exposure to tobacco smoke. Institute Science Health, USA. 2008-2011: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Crohn’s disease and mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis, a public health tragedy whose resolution is long overdue. Natural Environment Research Council UK (Ecology Hydrology). 2008-2010: PI: Weightman, A., Jones, T. & BéruBé, K. (Co-Partner)
  • Pulmonary toxicity of incense smoke. Self-funded PhD student. 2008-2012: BéruBé, K (PI)  & T. Jones
  • Toxicogenomic studies of air pollutants in 3-D a respiratory epithelial cell model. BBSRC-CASE PhD Studentship. 2008-2012: BéruBé, K. (PI) & Q-CHIP (Industrial Partner)
  • Nanotoxicology of urban air pollution. Natural Environment Research Council UK, Quota Studentship. 2008-2011: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • Peroxiredoxin Oxidation in Lung Injury and COPD. AstraZeneca UK, PhD Studentship. 2008-2011: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Linkages between in-port ship emissions and effects on health. Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland. 2007-2011: Sodeau, J. (PI), BéruBé, K. (Co-Partner) & Jones, T.
  • Toxicity of Airborne Dust and Leachate Generated by Municipal Landfills. Natural Environment Research Council UK, Quota Studentship. 2007-2010: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • In vitro human lung tissue culture for safety evaluation of candidate respiratory drugs. AstraZeneca UK. 2007-2010: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Toxicogenomic studies of air pollutants using 3-dimensional respiratory epithelial cell model. Q-Chip Ltd. UK. 2008-2009: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Validation of proteomic data: extension grant award for salary of one technician/extra consumables. Institute Science Health, USA. 2007-2008: BéruBé, K. (PI)
  • Bioreactivity of landfill leachates and particulate matter emissions. Natural Environment Research Council UK, Quota Studentship. 2005-2008: BéruBé, K. (PI) & T. Jones
  • Characterisation Laboratory for Environmental Engineering Research Mobile Environmental Monitoring Unit. Science Research Investment Fund 2, UK2005-2008: Jones, T., (PI), Matthews, I. &  BéruBé, K. (Co-PI)

Current Collaborations

Environmental Geology

  • Dr Timothy Jones School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3YE, Wales, UK.
  • Professor Shao Long-Yi State Key Laboratory of Coal Resources and Safe Mining, College of Geoscience and Surveying Engineering, China University of Mining and Technology (Beijing), Beijing 100083, China.                                  

Air Pollution Epidemiology

  • Professor Ian Matthews Institute of Primary Care & Public Health, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Neuadd Meirionnydd, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4YS.
  • Dr Rachel Adams School of Health Sciences, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Western Avenue, Cardiff, CF5 2YB.

Monitoring, Collecting and Source Apportionment

  • Dr Teresa Moreno Instituto de Diagnóstico Ambiental y Estudios del Agua (IDÆA), Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), C/ Jordi Girona 18-26, 08034 Barcelona, Spain.
  • Dr Heather Price Centre for Atmospheric and Instrumentation Research (CAIR), University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, AL10 9AB

Particle Toxicology

  • Dr Anna Wlodarcyk School of Biosciences, Lung & Particle Research Group, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, UK
  • Dr Hsiao-Chi Chuang School of Respiratory Therapy, College of Medicine, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan & Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Shuang Ho Hospital, Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan.

In Vitro Toxicology

  • Dr Zoe Prytherch School of Biosciences, Lung & Particle Research Group, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, UK.

Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution

  • Professor Kin-Fai Ho School of Public Health, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong.
  • Professor Shih-Chun Lung Research Center for Environmental Changes, Academia Sinica, Nankang, Taipei, Taiwan 115.

Atmospheric Chemistry

  • Professor Ralf Zimmermann Institute of Chemistry, University of Rostock, Dr.-Lorenz-Weg 1, D-18051 Rostock /Germany & German Research Center for Environmental Health GmbH, Ingolstädter Landstraße 1, D-85764 Oberschleißheim/Germany.

Affiliated Staff

Keith Sexton, Laboratory Manager

Dominique Balharry, Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Emma Paris, Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Lata Koshy, PhD Student

Tracy Hughes, PhD Student

Zoe Prytherch, PhD Student

Anna Wlodarcyk, MSc Student

Gaja Ramanathan, MSc Student

Robert Arthur, Post-doctoral Research Assistant

Research Accolades

  • Dietrich Hoffmann Scientific Merit Award 2006: Institute of Science & Health, USA, for work on tobacco smoke:  ‘toxico-genomics of aerial xenobiotics’
  • British Toxicology Society Prize 2006: 4-week coast-to-coast (Melbourne to Perth) lecture tour on ‘nano-toxicology’ (universities, government labs, nano-tech companies)
  • NC3Rs UK Replacement Prize 2007: National Centre for Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) for 3-dimensional (3-D) cell culture models of human lung (Micro-Lung™) to replace use of animals in toxicology
  • Science & Technology Innovation Award 2007: in collaboration with Unilever (UK) for development of an in vitro 3-D human tissue-based lung model as an alternative to the use of animals in inhalation toxicology
  • Fellow Royal Society of Medicine 2008: for contributions towards understanding the medical effects of air pollution on human respiratory health
  • Director Nano-science Initiatives 2008: oversee nanotechnology issues/activities
  • Maximising Impact Award 2009. Awarded to staff in School of Biosciences that maximised impact of their research beyond normal expectations of their position
  • Feature Scientist Cheltenham Science Festival 2009: UK premier science fair, in association with ‘New Scientist’ and ‘NC3Rs’ - public debate on animals in research
  • Science & Technology Innovation Award 2010: in collaboration with Q-Chip (UK) for development of microfluidic-based in vitro human lung cell model for high-throughput screening in drug discovery
  • The Bill Annette Lecture Award 2010:FRAME UK (Federation for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) annual lecture: “Experimental models for lung research: stuck between a rat and a hard place”
  • Maximising Impact Award 2010. Awarded to staff that maximised impact of their research beyond normal expectations of their position
  • Scientific Advisor Safer Medicine Trust UK 2010: advocating 3Rs practices
  • NC3Rs UK Replacement Prize 2012: development of fully-metabolising 3-D cell culture model (Metabo-Lung™) for production of safer medicines
  • International Lush Science Prize 2013: for Metabo-Lung™ model