Infant health research sample grants

Michael Cappello, MD, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, is seeking to develop a vaccine against hookworm infection. This parasitic infection affects up to 40 million pregnant women worldwide each year. Infected women often develop anemia and nutritional deficiencies, which can result in poor fetal growth, premature birth and childhood learning problems.

James E. Crowe, MD, Vanderbilt Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, is seeking to develop effective drug treatment for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the United States. Almost all babies contract RSV in the first 2 years of life, with most developing only mild cold-like symptoms. RSV is more likely to cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, in babies who were born prematurely or with birth defects.

Florence S. Dzierszinski, PhD, McGill University, Canada, is investigating how the body's immune system responds to Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that cause toxoplasmosis, as a step toward developing a vaccine or drug treatment to prevent transmission of the infection from a pregnant woman to her baby. When contracted by a pregnant woman, toxoplasmosis can result in miscarriage, stillbirth and birth defects.

Paul Hruz, MD, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, is seeking to understand how a gene may contribute to type II (adult-onset) and gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes, as a basis for developing improved drug treatments. Women with diabetes with onset prior to pregnancy are at increased risk of pregnancy complications and of having a baby with birth defects. Babies of women with gestational diabetes are at increased risk of large size, birth injuries and newborn health problems.

Ho Yi Mak, MD, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Kansas City, Missouri, is seeking to identify genes that help regulate fat storage, as a basis for developing new ways to prevent obesity and type II diabetes, which is common in obese individuals. An increasing number of pregnant women are obese, which increases the risk of pregnancy complications and of having a baby with birth defects.

Franck Mauvis-Jarvis, MD, PhD, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, is studying how changes in the functioning of a gene may predispose a woman to develop gestational diabetes, as a basis for developing ways to prevent it. This pregnancy-related form of diabetes occurs in about 5 percent of pregnancies and contributes to newborn health problems, and possibly, to childhood obesity and diabetes.

Alistair McGregor, PhD, University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, is studying the effectiveness of anti-viral drugs in preventing transmission of cytomegalovirus (CMV) from a pregnant woman to her baby. About 1 percent of babies are born with congenital CMV infection, sometimes resulting in mental retardation, and vision and hearing loss.

Lynda A. Morrison, PhD, Saint Louis School of Medicine in Missouri, is developing a vaccine against the virus that causes genital herpes, in order to prevent dangerous newborn infections. Babies who contract this infection from their mothers during delivery sometimes develop serious infections, lasting disabilities such as mental retardation, and some die.

Joseph W. St. Geme, MD, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, is studying a recently identified form of Haemophilus (a family of bacteria) to learn how it causes severe newborn infections, as a step toward developing an effective drug treatment. This infection poses a high risk of death in infected premature infants.

Virginia D. Winn, MD, PhD, University of Colorado, Denver, is studying a role of a gene in causing preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy-related form of high blood pressure, as a basis for developing drug treatments. Preeclampsia occurs in up to 8 percent of pregnancies and contributes to about 15 percent of preterm deliveries.

Most common questions

How many disorders should newborns be screened for?

The March of Dimes calls upon all states to adopt the new national standard of screening for at least 30 treatable conditions that are not obvious at birth. Early diagnosis and proper treatment of these disorders can make the difference between lifelong impairment and healthy development. Each year an estimated 6,000 newborns are diagnosed with a treatable metabolic condition and another 12,000 with a hearing impairment.

What birth defects are associated with maternal obesity?

Studies suggest that babies of obese mothers are about twice as likely as women of average weight to have a baby with spina bifida (open spine) or related birth defects. They also may be at slightly increased risk of heart and limb defects. Today about 1 in 4 women of reproductive age are obese. A woman who is obese should discuss her weight with her health care provider before pregnancy and work towards reaching a healthy weight to improve her chances of having a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

What is toxoplasmosis?

Toxoplasmosis is a common parasitic infection that often causes no symptoms. About 30 percent of pregnant women who develop toxoplasmosis pass the infection on to their babies, sometimes resulting in vision and learning problems, serious newborn complications and, occasionally, death.Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy also can cause preterm delivery or stillbirth. Pregnant women can reduce their risk of toxoplasmosis by avoiding possible sources of the infection, such as raw or undercooked meats and cat feces. A pregnant woman should ask someone else to change the cat's litter box.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).