The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has renewed a $4.3 million grant to the University of Iowa College of Public Health for a project to identify factors in early pregnancy that may increase the risk of major structural birth defects.
The award is to continue the work of the Iowa Center of Excellence for Birth Defects Research and Prevention, including participation in the Birth Defects Study to Evaluate Pregnancy exposureS (BD-STEPS). Among the major goals for the Iowa Center are conducting comprehensive ascertainment of common, severe major structural birth defects; identifying associations with environmental exposures and genetic factors; and expanding a training program to develop the future generation of birth defect researchers.
Paul Romitti, professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health, is the principal investigator on the UI grant award and Kristin Conway, associate research scientist in the UI College of Public Health is the co-principal investigator. Romitti also directs the Iowa Center and Iowa Registry for Congenital and Inherited Disorders.
“In our previous work, we expertly conducted data collection and made substantial contributions to birth defects research, ranging from methods development to identifying gene-environment interaction effects,” says Romitti. “With our new funding, we will place an emphasis on studying the impact of chronic disease, including cancer, and medications used during pregnancy on development of birth defects.”
Collaborators at the UI include Charles Lynch and Jacob Oleson from the College of Public Health, and Thomas Scholz and Alpa Sidhu from the Carver College of Medicine. The Iowa Center also will draw on collaborations with the Iowa Department of Public Health, State Hygienic Laboratory of Iowa, National Human Genome Research Institute, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, Columbia University, Emory University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai, Penn State University, University of California Davis, University of Utah, Wake Forest University, HealthPartners Institute, and the New York State Department of Health.
Five other institutions also received funding to build on previous birth defects research, including the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, New York State Department of Health, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and Stanford University.
“Management of chronic disease during pregnancy can provide considerable challenges to prenatal providers and expectant mothers in balancing the risks of untreated disease versus available treatments,” says Romitti. “We will use cutting-edge analytic approaches to integrate surveillance, epidemiologic, and genetic data to better understand these risks to provide critical insights to better manage maternal health and fetal development.”