March of Dimes research grants

Asim Beg, PhD, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is studying the causes of a form of cerebral palsy called hemiplegic cerebral palsy, which affects movement more severely on one side of the body than the other. The ultimate goal is to develop a drug treatment to prevent or treat hemiplegic cerebral palsy.

Paul Ryland Brakeman, MD, PhD, University of California at San Francisco, is examining the role of a gene in the development of the urinary tract, for insight into the causes of urinary tract defects. Urinary tract defects affect more than 1 in 100 children and are a leading cause of kidney failure in children.

Ricardo Feldman, PhD, University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, is seeking to develop a novel drug treatment that can prevent brain damage in forms of Gaucher disease that affect the brain. Gaucher disease is an inherited disorder of body chemistry that leads to a build-up of fatty substances in various organs, sometimes including the brain. Currently available enzyme replacement treatment does not reach the brain.

Richard Lambert Auten, MD, Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, is seeking to devise better ways to deliver nitric oxide (NO) to the lungs of premature infants who are at high risk of bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). This chronic lung disease is common in premature babies who have been treated for breathing difficulties. Inhaled NO treatment helps prevent inflammation, which contributes to BPD, but has not yet proven successful in preventing BPD.

Iain L. Buxton, PharmD, University of Nevada School of Medicine in Reno, is studying variant versions of a protein structure in uterine muscle cells to see if any of these variants are linked with preterm labor. These structures appear to help keep the uterus relaxed during pregnancy. This study could improve identification of women at high risk of premature delivery and, ultimately, allow early treatment to prevent it.

Erika Chiong Claud, MD, University of Chicago, is investigating whether use of certain antibiotics in premature infants may alter gut bacteria and increase susceptibility to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a life-threatening intestinal complication that is most common in babies born very prematurely. This study could possibly lead to changes in the care of premature babies to help prevent NEC.

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.