Early life exposures and chronic disease: mechanisms and preventative strategies (2016–2020)
Globally, we are facing an epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases that is affecting countries from all levels of economic development. While understanding of the impact of early life exposures to adverse environmental factors is increasing, progress in developing and testing intervention strategies is hampered by lack of effective tools for assessing exposures and short-term biomarkers that track with long-term disease risk. The vision underpinning my research is to build on my success in conducting high quality research into the mechanisms underlying the onset and progress of lung disease in early life and of developing and testing intervention strategies in the areas of asthma, cystic fibrosis and children¿s environmental health. In the next 5 years I will focus on improving methods of assessing early lung disease, environmental exposures in early life and understanding risk factors for chronic disease. The aims of my research are: to continue development and validation of a novel non-invasive method for measuring lung function in infants and young children; to understand the mechanisms underlying links between the upper airway microbiome, severe lower respiratory illnesses and immune function in early life and subsequent asthma; to examine interactions between exaggerated neutrophil-dominated inflammation in the lungs, oxidative stress and structural lung disease in infants and young children with cystic fibrosis; to develop non-invasive biomarkers of pulmonary oxidative stress suitable for tracking structural lung disease in cystic fibrosis; and to improve understanding of the links between adverse environmental exposures during fetal development and in early life and the long-term risks for chronic disease by improving exposure assessments and developing proximate outcome markers that track with long-term disease risk. Studies will be conducted in NHMRC-funded longitudinal and cross-sectional cohorts with national and international collaborators.