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What is CHEAR?

CHEAR is a resource that gives extramural researchers access to laboratory and data analyses of childhood environmental exposures to support their health research projects. The goal is to advance understanding of the impact of childhood environmental exposures on health either by adding analysis of exposures for the first time or by significantly expanding exposure analysis for studies that have previously considered exposures. Ultimately, CHEAR seeks to characterize the exposome and enable comprehensive childhood exposure analysis in health research.

Researchers can apply to use CHEAR now. Go to "How to Apply" for more information.

What kinds of analyses will CHEAR provide?

For successful applicants, CHEAR provides analytical services to support researchers who want to include childhood environmental exposure assessment in health studies. Exposures measured by CHEAR cover the breadth of the exposome. The CHEAR Laboratory Network provides both targeted and untargeted environmental exposure and biological response analyses in human samples. The Data Center provides a repository for all data generated by the Laboratory Network, and provides statistical analysis, data integration, and interpretation services to extramural researchers. The Data Center is designed to help extramural researchers maximize the impact of exposure data throughout the research community.

How does CHEAR work?

CHEAR provide pre-application guidance to support the development of a proposal consistent with the goals of CHEAR and which maximizes the scientific value of a proposed project. After a project proposal is approved, a CHEAR Research Coordinator works with the investigator and the CHEAR labs and Data Center to coordinate the conduct of the project. Investigators send their samples to a CHEAR laboratory for analysis, and the resulting data are shared with the investigator and with the Data Center. The CHEAR Laboratory Network and Data Center may assist in the analysis and interpretation of the lab results. The Data Center can potentially assist investigators with projects that require only data analysis.

How is CHEAR organized?

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) established CHEAR, which is comprised of three related components:

Who can use CHEAR?

You may be eligible to access CHEAR if all of the following apply:

  • You have an ongoing or completed epidemiological or clinical study on children’s exposures and related health outcomes.
  • You want to add environmental exposure data to your study or you need more extensive analysis of exposures early in life or during childhood to support your scientific hypothesis related to health outcomes in the child, or later in life.
  • Your study was funded at least in part by NIH extramural funds.
  • You are eligible to apply for an NIH grant at your home institution.
  • Your study has existing samples that are biological specimens collected from children and/or their parents. If your samples are not yet collected, CHEAR can provide consultation services.
  • You agree to share experimental design details and supporting data, including phenotypic data at the individual level, needed to facilitate the analysis to be conducted by the CHEAR consortium including both the CHEAR Data Center and Laboratory Network. This data will be de-identified and shared publicly through the CHEAR Data Repository.

When will I be able to apply to CHEAR?

Applications are being accepted now. Go to "How to Apply" for more information.

Can I submit environmental samples (air, soil, water) to CHEAR for analyses?

No, CHEAR’s focus is on human biological samples.

I’m budgeting for an NIH grant that may use CHEAR resources. How should I handle that?

We encourage potential CHEAR users developing grant applications to include funds for their analyses of exposures central to their hypotheses within their budget plans. These studies may potentially be eligible to expand exposure analyses using CHEAR but this cannot be guaranteed at the time of application submission.

Do I need IRB approvals to utilize CHEAR?

Yes. Investigators need to have IRB approval to support the analyses of samples by CHEAR. IRBs need to confirm that the provided data may be shared per CHEAR data sharing policies.

How is CHEAR related to the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program?

ECHO is a separate, larger effort at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). ECHO is assembling cohorts to study how environmental factors, especially during pregnancy and the first 5 years of life, affect four key pediatric outcomes: upper and lower respiratory disease, obesity, perinatal health, and neurodevelopment.

CHEAR is not limited to this age group or these four outcomes. It is more broadly applicable to environmental exposures during any stage of childhood and to health outcomes beyond the ECHO priority areas.

CHEAR will provide some support for ECHO, but this will not interfere with other users’ access to CHEAR’s services. CHEAR has sufficient resources to meet ECHO’s needs as well as those of other investigators.

CHEAR will perform the following services for ECHO:

  • The Lab Network will conduct a limited set of analysis of biological samples for the entire ECHO program, including targeted and untargeted analyses.
  • The CHEAR Data Center will work with the ECHO Data and Analysis Center to facilitate data flow and analysis.
  • The Coordinating Center will provide administrative management of cooperative work involving ECHO and CHEAR.

How is a Laboratory Hub assigned?

The Lab Hubs in the CHEAR Laboratory Network are assigned to a project for consultation based on the following criteria:

  • Analytic interests/needs of the proposed project
  • Lab Hub expertise
  • Available capacity and workload balance among Lab Hubs
  • Interest in the proposed project
  • Previous relationship with the applicant

What is the minimum/maximum number of samples you will accept per study for laboratory analysis?

A project’s eligibility for CHEAR services does not depend on a predetermined number of biological samples available for analysis.

The number and characteristics of biological samples will be considerations for assessing the feasibility of the proposed laboratory analyses and the data analysis plan. These aspects influence both the power to test hypotheses and the workload of the CHEAR Lab Hubs. Assessments will be made by the CHEAR Lab Hubs and CHEAR Data Center in consultation with the applicant as part of the proposal review process.

We encourage you to submit a request for CHEAR services to confirm your project’s eligibility and initiate the proposal submission and review process. See the Request for CHEAR Services Form Web example. You need to register for a myCHEAR account to start the process.

I am not an environmental epidemiologist but would like to add exposure analysis to my study. How can CHEAR help?

CHEAR can provide guidance on how to add exposure analysis to your study. We can work with you to support the development of a proposal that is consistent with the goals of CHEAR and that maximizes the scientific value of your project.

We encourage you to submit a request for CHEAR services to confirm your project’s eligibility and to initiate the proposal submission and review process. As part of the review process, the CHEAR Lab Hubs and CHEAR Data Center will make recommendations in consultation with you. See the Request for CHEAR Services Form Web example.

I have some of my samples in hand but have not yet completed recruitment or sample collection. Can I secure CHEAR support for samples not yet collected?

Ideally, sample collection should already be completed; however, we encourage you to submit a request for CHEAR services to confirm your project’s eligibility and to initiate the proposal submission and review process. Once you do this, you will have the opportunity to discuss the best options for your project with CHEAR Lab Hub(s) and the CHEAR Data Center. See the Request for CHEAR Services Form Web example. Please note, CHEAR does not analyze samples on a rolling basis. All samples to be analyzed by CHEAR will need to be collected by the project start date, and the feasibility assessments and review of your project will be based on the number of samples you have on hand.

The analytes measured in my study have short half-lives. Is it possible to relate them to chronic health conditions?

If you want to relate short-lived biomarkers to a chronic condition, multiple samples taken at several different time points or studies to indicate within-person stability over time may be necessary. Demonstrating the validity of biomarkers depends on the exposure–outcome conceptual model and the toxicokinetics of exposure biomarkers, but it should always be considered.

We encourage you to submit a request for CHEAR services to confirm your project’s eligibility and to initiate the proposal submission and review process. As part of the review process, the CHEAR Lab Hubs will make recommendations about the appropriate use of short-lived analytes in consultation with you. See the Request for CHEAR Services Form Web example.

My NIH-funded study is focused on fertility or other pregnancy (mother's health)-related endpoints. Is it eligible to apply for CHEAR support?

Such a study could be eligible for CHEAR analyses—if it investigates the association between exposures and the child's (or fetus's) health, such as birthweight, intrauterine growth, or miscarriage. Studies focused solely on fertility or maternal health endpoints will not be accepted.

Page last updated: 
May 24, 2018