One of Dr. Butsch Kovacic’s long-term goals is to improve the understanding of how the environment modifies chronic disease risk in genetically and/or economically vulnerable children. To this end, she is the PI of an ongoing study that is evaluating associations between environmental exposures and biomarkers of oxidative stress and whether or not these biomarkers will better predict risk of severe/uncontrolled childhood asthma compared to parental report of exposure alone (previous NIEHS R21 and CCTST KL2). As part of this study, her team is evaluating diesel exhaust particle and second hand tobacco smoke exposures, as well as obesity levels, markers of inflammation and antioxidant status, genetic and socioeconomic factors, and DNA methylation patterns. As her preliminary data revealed strong associations between her outcomes and socioeconomic factors, over the last year, she has partnered with Cincinnati’s CoreChange, a grassroots advocacy group, and Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses (SHNH; http://7hillsnh.org/), a full service social service agency and community center in the West End of Cincinnati, to expand her research into the community using a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. To this end, she has implemented a community-based research registry and begun needs assessments using a child-centered PhotoVoice approach and adult focus groups. A peer family health COACH (Coaching On Achieving Community Health) program will begin soon. To inform these community-based studies, she is collaborating on a project seeking to develop unique multimedia educational materials targeting low-income and low-literacy caregivers with asthmatic children.
In addition to these studies, she is also the PI of an ongoing longitudinal epidemiological study seeking to evaluate environmental and sexual exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV) in families with children diagnosed with Fanconi anemia (current NHLBI R01). Individuals with Fanconi anemia are genetically vulnerable to squamous head and neck cancers previously shown to be positively associated with HPV. Her team is testing for oral HPV DNA, HPV serological markers as well as markers of immune response. As part of this study, Dr. Butsch Kovacic regularly interacts with a community of families associated with the Fanconi Anemia Research Fund, a strong parent-led advocacy group focused on the improving the lives of children with Fanconi anemia, to design, optimize and disseminate the findings from her study.
Personalized medicine; genetic and environmental biomarkers of asthma and allergic disease; human papillomavirus infection and cancer; Fanconi anemia.
Associate Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics