Environmental Influences on Health and Disease

Not all diseases are caused by genetics. Almost a quarter of diseases and most injuries are caused by environmental factors. Many more are influenced by both. From conception to later adulthood, we are exposed to environmental influences that contribute to our overall health. Diet, drugs, toxins and physical activity greatly influence our risk and progression of common diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, lung disease, cancer, arthritis, orthopedic injuries and even brain function.

The Environmental Influences on Health and Disease Group at Sanford Research studies how environmental factors influence cellular function and human disease, an important interface between chemistry, molecular and cell biology, and physiology. Babies are particularly sensitive to chemical changes in their environment because any short-term alterations can have life-long consequences by disrupting proper developmental programming.

Ongoing research across our laboratories study how altering chemicals that are required for cellular metabolism during prenatal (maternal diet) and perinatal (atmospheric toxins) development impacts tissue development and newborn diseases. Physical activity and nutritional research help us understand how these powerful environmental influences can be harnessed to improve health and wellbeing in everyday life.

Sports participation is one effective strategy for incorporating physical activity into a healthy lifestyle, but it comes with an increased risk of injury. Accordingly, our laboratories study athletic injury prevention, care and recovery to develop new programs and treatments that improve the health, safety and performance of athletes.