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Women & Infants Receives $2 Million Grant from NIH to Continue Work on Perinatal Biology

Women & Infants Hospital has recently received a $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue work under the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for Perinatal Biology. Of the 108 COBREs across the country, Women & Infants is the only one specifically focused on developmental research.

Under the leadership of Women & Infants’ pediatrician-in-chief, James F. Padbury, MD, and Surendra Sharma, MBBS, PhD, the COBRE team of researchers are studying embryo, placenta and heart development, the susceptibility to infection in newborns, and the effects of intrauterine development on later outcomes.

“Our projects are focused on critical windows of development. Environmental disturbance or other influences during these critical windows can have lasting effects,” said Dr. Padbury. “Our overarching hypothesis is that understanding these effects during critical developmental periods informs the mechanisms of health and disease throughout life.”

Carmen Marsit, PhD, from the Department of Pathology at Brown University, is studying epigenetic effects of the intrauterine development, the environment, and alterations in placental DNA. An adverse intrauterine environment, especially in late pregnancy, can be associated with heightened risk of disease in adult life, including hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. By optimizing both the intrauterine and the postnatal environment, researchers hope to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable children.

Women & Infants’ reproductive endocrinologist Jared Robins, MD, and his team are studying how environmental conditions may affect embryonic development. The results will improve outcomes in infertility treatment by examining the optimal conditions for an embryo to develop, thereby increasing the success of many infertility treatment protocols.

Joseph Bliss, MD, PhD, a neonatologist at Women & Infants, is researching infection in extremely low birth weight newborns with the hopes that his discoveries will improve care not only for these infants but also for immune-compromised children and adults whose susceptibility to these infections may be life threatening.

A team led by Yi-Tang Tseng, PhD, a research scientist in Women & Infants’ Department of Pediatrics, has identified the unique mechanisms in fetal life that control cell division during heart development. Using translational science, the team is looking at how overexpression of these mechanisms may induce cardiac repair and regeneration following a myocardial infarction during adult life.

The COBRE researchers’ laboratories are all located in Providence’s “Knowledge District” in the Kilguss Research Institute, the Laboratory for Molecular Medicine and the Coro Research building.

Other investigators include Sunil Shaw, PhD, and Zhongbin Lai, PhD. Senior investigators also participating in the projects are Sandra Carson, MD; Ulrike Mende, PhD; and Karl Kelsey, MD.

About Women & Infants Hospital
Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns and a U.S.News Best Hospital in Gynecology. The primary teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the seventh largest obstetrical service in the country with more than 9,000 deliveries per year. In 2009, Women & Infants opened the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

New England’s premier hospital for women and newborns, Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Center of Excellence from the American College of Radiography; a Center for In Vitro Maturation Excellence by SAGE In Vitro Fertilization; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health; and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group.

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