Dr Christine Austin
C24 - Westmead Hospital
The University of Sydney
|Telephone||61 2 9845-8767|
|Fax||61 2 9845-7599|
University of Sydney
Dr Christine Austin is an NHMRC Postdoctoral fellow with the Faculty of Dentistry, University of Sydney. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Applied Chemistry with First Class Honours in 2006 and a PhD on the development of novel quantification procedures and applications of laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) analysis of biological tissues in 2011.
Her research interests include the development and validation of teeth as a biomarker for metal and other toxicant exposure. This involves determining the relationship between toxicant levels in teeth and other biological and environmental matrices, assessment of relationships between teeth toxicant levels and health outcomes and the identification of critical time windows of susceptibility.
Christine is currently involved in a project funded by the NHMRC with Chief Investigator Dr Manish Arora to develop and validate teeth as a biomarker for metal toxicant exposure. The aims of the project are to determine the relationship between metal concentrations in teeth and other biological media and environmental samples. Health outcomes previously linked with metals of interest will also be measured to assess whether the tooth biomarker is able to predict a well-established exposure-disease relationship.
Exposure to metal toxicants remains a major public health issue in Australia and globally with a substantial body of evidence supporting their role in a range of disorders, including cardiovascular disease, neurodevelopmental deficits and cancer. Many metals, including arsenic, lead and manganese, readily cross the placental barrier which is concerning as developing foetal organs, particularly the brain, are much more susceptible to injury caused by toxic agents than an adult brain. The major barrier in studying adverse intrauterine effects of toxicants and the exact time period of highest vulnerability in humans is the inability to directly measure foetal exposure at different stages of development.
In human primary teeth mineralization begins prenatally between the 14th and 18th gestational weeks and occurs in a rhythmic manner creating incremental lines, like growth rings in a tree. In addition, a histological landmark known as the neonatal line is formed at the time of birth. This allows us to demarcate pre- and postnatally formed parts of the tooth. Many metal toxicants accumulate in teeth and using a spatial elemental analysis tool like LA-ICP-MS we can assess exposure based on magnitude and timing and therefore identify critical periods of susceptibility.
Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard University
Elemental Bio-Imaging Facility, University of Technology, Sydney
Public health; Environmental health; Epidemiology