Melanie Gareau, PhD – Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Cell Biology

Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology Following Early Life Environmental Exposure

The microbiota-gut-brain axis (MGB axis) is an important pathway for maintaining health and well-being. Disruptions in the axis have been identified in numerous disease states, including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes and autism spectrum disorder. Early development is an important life stage for normal establishment of the microbiota, development of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and neurobiological growth and maturation, which together modulate the MGB axis. Exposure to pathophysiological stimuli, for example neurotoxicants, during this important developmental period can have long-term consequences on overall health and well-being.

We propose to study GI function following exposure to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) during gestation and lactation in mice. We will use samples collected from animals used in ongoing studies funded to examine cognition following developmental exposures. We hypothesize that PCB exposure during early development will lead to GI and microbiota defects. These studies will determine whether environmental exposures to potential neurotoxicants can lead to changes in GI physiology and contribute to long-lasting changes in the MGB axis.