Fetal origins of metabolic disease
Fetal exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) causes insulin resistance in the adult (Veiga-Lopez et al., Am J Physiol - Endocrinol Metab 2016), a pre-stage of type 2 diabetes, which affects ~350 million people. In women, gestational BPA exposure affects the newborn’s weight in a sex-specific manner (Veiga-Lopez et al., J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2015). Animal studies suggest that weight increases are due to increase body fat. How BPA induces insulin resistance and weight gain/obesity remains unknown. Our research using in vivo and cell-based assays aims to understand the mechanistic basis by which BPA programs insulin resistance and obesity during fetal life. Our recent work has demonstrated for the first time that gestational BPA can increase the ability of fetal primary preadipocytes to differentiate into mature adipocytes and points to the endoplasmic reticulum stress as a potential modulator in this effect. (Pu et al., Endocrinology 2017).
This work is currently funded by NIEHS/NIH K22 TIEHR award.
Placental programming of adult disease
Despite its central role during pregnancy, the placenta is often overlooked in the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease field and toxicological studies. To understand how endocrine disrupting chemicals can affect placental function contributing to this higher incidence in pregnancy disorders and the role the placenta plays in fetal programming, our laboratory is investigating how emerging bisphenolic endocrine disrupting chemical may induce placental dysfunction and ultimately affect fetal development. Our latest work demonstrates that bisphenol S can reduce the endocrine capacity of the placenta (Gingrich et al., Archives of Toxicology, 2018).
We are continuing to explore the mechanisms by which other emerging endocrine disrupting chemicals can alter placental function. In these studies we use animal models, primary cultured cells, and cell lines.
Improving sheep intensive production systems
As a veterinarian, I also have a substantial interest in applied research to improve sheep production systems, an outstanding priority for the Michigan Sheep Breeders Association. Given how maternal nutritional status and environment affect offspring health, my laboratory is collaborating with Dr. Richard Ehrhardt (Animal Sciences and Large Animal Clinical Sciences Departments, MSU) to launch new studies focusing on the effects of plane of nutrition and its relationship with breeding season in an intensive sheep production system at the Sheep Teaching & Research Center. This work is currently funded by the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture.