Nicole Barra, PhD, receives 2015 Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation Fellowship Award

Nicole Barra, PhD

Congratulations to Nicole Barra, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, on recieving one of two 2015 Molly Towell Perinatal Research Foundation (MTPRF) Fellowship Awards.  

Barra received this award for her fellowship proposal “Perinatal Exposure to Nicotine Leads to Long-Term Obesity in Women: Elucidating the Underlying Molecular Mechanisms”.

Despite increased awareness and education, one fifth of women in Canada still smoke cigarettes during pregnancy, which is of great concern as it leads to increased blood lipids and obesity in the offspring. Under the supervision of Daniel Hardy, PhD, associate professor in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Physiology and Pharmacology, Barra hopes to better understand how fetal and neonatal exposure to nicotine in pregnancy leads to this outcome.

“Results from this study will allow us to further understand how nicotine promotes this process, leading to the discovery of novel and safe therapeutic strategies in preventing obesity, cardiovascular disease and other adverse metabolic effects related to nicotine exposure in the womb,” Barra explained.

She added that these results will effectively determine the efficacy and safety of nicotine and nicotine replacement therapy use for smoking cessation in pregnant women, directly influencing future clinical practice guidelines regarding nicotine use and pregnancy.

Barra is thrilled and honoured to be the 2015 recipient of the MTPRF Fellowship Award, as it gives her the opportunity to continue exploring the concept that exposure to environmental factors during pregnancy can alter the susceptibility of offspring to diseases later in life, including obesity, type 2 diabetes and hepatic steatosis.

MTPRF was established in 1988 as a legacy of the estate of Dr. Molly Towell. The main objectives of the foundation are to provide funding for graduate and undergraduate fellowships, and start-up operating funds to assist in research and education, in the field of fetal and neonatal medicine.