Dr. Retha Newbold is a developmental reproductive biologist and head of the developmental endocrinology section in the Laboratory of Molecular Toxicology for the National Institute for Environmental Health Services (NIEHS).
She maintains an active research program focused on the role of estrogens in abnormal and normal differentiation and development. Some of her most significant work over the years has been the development of an experimental animal model to study the adverse effects of diethylstilbestrol (DES) when exposure occurs during critical periods of differentiation. The establishment of this model has provided the framework on which many of her subsequent mechanistic studies have been based and for her continuing interest in the fetal basis of adult disease. Using the developmentally DES-exposed mouse, many of her findings have replicated and predicted the abnormalities seen in similarly DES-exposed humans.
The DES animal model is now being used as a guide to determine the risk of exposure to other environmental agents with estrogenic activity that may pose a problem for both wildlife and humans. Many of these environmental drugs and chemicals interfere with normal development and produce a wide variety of effects in both male and female reproductive tracts, some of which subsequently result in infertility and toxicity including carcinogenesis later in life. Current studies are designed to help understand and predict the effects of environmental estrogens on the developing fetus and to study the relationship of low dose estrogen exposure with the development of metabolic disease including obesity later in life. Major research efforts are directed at translating fundamental information gained from animal studies into applied toxicological testing systems, and into clinical studies and practice.