In addition to being a National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS) investigator, Peter Langlois assists with operations of the NBDPS in the Texas Center.
What are your research interests?
I am interested in the link between birth defects and substances in the environment and in the workplace.
Why do you study birth defects? Why do you think the NBDPS is important?
The birth of a healthy baby is something folks anticipate for months or years. So it seems particularly sad to me when a pregnancy doesn’t end that way, and I would like to discover ways to prevent such an ending. Also from a scientific viewpoint, we know so little about the causes of birth defects and the time between exposure and disease is so small (say, compared with many cancers), that there are incredible research opportunities to make a real public health impact. I think the NBDPS is the single most promising effort that has ever been done to understand birth defects and thus prevent them from occurring.
What do you think the next big discoveries will be?
I think the next big discoveries in the causes of birth defects will come from studies of gene-environment interactions.
How long have you worked in this field? On the NBDPS?
I have worked in public health and environmental epidemiology for 22 years, in birth defects epidemiology for 15 years, and on the NBDPS since its inception.
Please share an NBDPS or research related anecdote.
I left graduate school feeling that the strongest associations between risk factors and disease had largely been discovered (e.g. between smoking and lung cancer, with odds ratios around 10) and therefore that new researchers should be content finding relative risks around 2-4. So when a collaborator presented her results on the association of diarrhea with neural tube defects, finding odds ratios of 10 and greater, I was so excited I started hyperventilating.
If you could meet anyone living or passed, who would it be and why?
Assuming we could communicate effectively, I would like to meet Leonardo da Vinci. It would be incredible to get to know someone who thought so far outside the box. In fact, I think he redesigned the box.
Selected NBDPS Publications:
Langlois PH, Ramadhani T, Royle M, Robbins JM, Scheuerle AE, Wyzynski DF, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Birth defects and military service since 1990. Military Medicine. 2009 Feb;174(2):170-6.