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As the focal point within the NICHD for nutrition science and pediatric endocrine research and training, the PGNB supports research aimed at understanding the mechanisms of growth and development at the gene-molecular level and at higher levels of cell and organ function.
The Branch initiates and supports research programs focused on:
- Determining the role of nutrition throughout the life cycle, with an emphasis on the needs of women of reproductive age, (including pregnant and lactating women), preterm and term infants, and children through adolescence, to promote health, optimal growth and development, and to prevent disease.
- Exploring the role of nutrients in reproduction, immune function, cognition and behavioral development.
- Elucidating the interactive roles played by nutrients and hormones in growth and development of the central nervous system and its interactions with the gastrointestinal tract.
- Determining the roles played by lactation and breastfeeding in infant nutrition, including studies of the non-nutrient components of breast milk and their roles in infant health, with an emphasis on the immunologic properties of breast milk, the intestinal microbiome, and the role of breast milk in protecting against infections and enteric diseases.
- Improving our understanding of the antecedents and sequelae of childhood obesity as well as the nutritional and developmental origins of health and disease.
- Highlighting the cultural and behavioral aspects of food selection and eating behavior;
- Elucidating the neuroendocrine basis of linear growth and the onset of puberty, including studies of growth failure and precocious and delayed puberty.
- Ascertaining the genetic, nutritional and hormonal antecedents of bone health and the early origins of osteoporosis with an aim to developing preventive strategies.
- Branch-supported research:
- Mai et al [PLoS One 2011: 6; e20647] reported significant changes in intestinal bacterial populations one week before the onset of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), with a bloom of Proteobacteria and a simultaneous decrease in Firmicutes. One of the bacterial rRNA signatures detected more frequently in NEC cases than in controls was an unknown bacterium in the Enterobacteriaceae family. These novel findings will help predict NEC before it strikes. PMID:21674011.
- Branch-supported research:
- Morrow et al [J Pediatr 2011; 158: 745-51] noted that the fucosyltrasferase 2 gene (FUT2) codes for fucosyl-lactose, known as the H antigen, which protects against enteric bacterial pathogens. However, 25% of the population have a non-coding FUT2 polymorphism and, therefore, have no H antigen-conferred protection. These investigators reported that premature infants without the H antigen have a mortality rate 7 times greater than infants with the H antigen. This finding can be incorporated into algorithms that predict likelihood of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in preterm infants. PMID:21256510.
- Branch-supported clinical trial network:
- TrialNet investigators, partially supported by the NICHD, reported that the immunomodulatory agent abatacept, when administered to children with new onset type 1 diabetes mellitus, prevents T-cell activation and preserves beta cell function. Two years after treatment, insulin production was 59% greater in those children receiving abatacept than in those assigned to placebo. PMID:21719096
- Branch-supported initiatives: