Alison Holloway, PhD
Concerns about the impact of chemical toxicants in the environment on animal and human health are increasing globally. Although there is a growing perception that these chemical insults adversely affect the health of animal and human populations, there is still little information regarding the mechanisms underlying their actions. To date, research attention has focused largely on adverse reproductive effects following exposure to environmental contaminants with estrogenic activity, and has, for the most part, not examined other endocrine or metabolic outcomes. However, it has been suggested that exposure to environmental contaminants may also have an important role in the etiology of metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The overall goal of my research program is to understand the mechanism(s) by which chemical insults can cause metabolic endocrine disruption in animal and human populations. In particular, I am interested in determining how fetal exposure to chemical insults results in adverse postnatal health outcomes in the offspring including type 2 diabetes and obesity. The chemicals that I am interested in studying include: chemicals we may intentionally expose ourselves to through lifestyle choices such as cigarette smoking or the use of over the counter natural health products; man-made chemicals present in the environment and naturally occurring chemicals in our diet (e.g. plant phytoestrogens). To date the bulk of my research has focused on the long-term health consequences of fetal and neonatal exposure to constituents of cigarette smoke and smoking cessation pharmacotherapies. Specifically we have been examining the mechanisms by which fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine, as delivered by maternal smoking or nicotine replacement therapy use can result in pancreatic beta cell damage at birth and the development of type 2 diabetes in the adult offspring. My laboratory is also investigating the consequences of fetal exposure to over the counter natural health products, psychiatric medications and man-made chemicals present in the environment on the development of metabolic disorders in adulthood.