Posts Tagged ‘research’

March of Dimes’ researchers hard at work

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Did you know that in 2014, the March of Dimes invested about $25 million in research to defeat premature birth and other health problems? Scientific research has been a main focus of the March of Dimes since it was founded 75 years ago. March of Dimes-funded researchers created the first safe and effective vaccines for epidemic polio, and we haven’t stopped trying to improve the health of all babies since then.

The March of Dimes has pioneered genetic research, promoted the B vitamin folic acid to prevent birth defects, fought for lifesaving newborn screening tests– and so much more. Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes birth defects in 8,000 babies each year. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby before or during birth. The March of Dimes is funding research on protecting against CMV in women of childbearing age, thereby protecting babies.
  • Novel gene therapy: Scientists have long been seeking to develop gene therapy. However, they have run into a number of obstacles. A recent March of Dimes grantee is attempting to find a new way around these obstacles. He is using a novel form of gene therapy called “gene editing.” Instead of replacing the faulty gene, this new technology attempts to find and fix the mutation (change) in the gene.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to help families have full-term, healthy babies. We now have two Prematurity Research Centers –Stanford University and the Ohio Collaborative. These transdicsiplinary centers recognize that preterm birth is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. At both centers, scientists are coming together to examine the problem of preterm birth from many angles. Some highlights of ongoing research include:

  • Progesterone signaling in pregnancy maintenance and preterm birth: Progesterone is a key pregnancy hormone. It is thought to play a role in preventing contractions until term, but we don’t know how it does this. Progesterone treatment is one of the few available treatments to help prevent repeat singleton preterm delivery in women who have already had a premature birth. However, we do not know why progesterone treatment works in some women but not others. A better understanding of the exact role progesterone plays in maintaining pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent or treat preterm labor.
  • Microbiome and preterm birth: The microbiome refers to the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies. Recent genetic technologies (DNA sequencing) have identified many new organisms, most of which don’t harm our health. Scientists are analyzing changes in the microbiome in samples from term and preterm pregnancies. The goal is to find out if specific microbes or changes in the microbiome may contribute to premature birth. This information could lead to better ways to predict and prevent premature birth.

The March of Dimes expects to open two additional Prematurity Research Centers in the near future.  You can read more about our infant health, birth defects, and prematurity research on our website.  The March of Dimes continues to do all it can to give every baby a healthy start in life.

 

Possible link between antidepressants and miscarriage

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

depression-2Researchers from Canada have reported a possible connection between miscarriage and antidepressant drugs. The Canadian Medical Association Journal reported the results of their study on Monday.

But the study was preliminary; more research needs to be done before we know for sure if there is a connection. Also, it’s possible that depression itself, not the medications used to treat it, may increase the risk of miscarriage.

A women who is pregnant and has depression should talk with her health care provider about the risks and benefits of taking medications. The illness itself increases the chances of pregnany complications. So the woman and her provider must carefully consider whether she should or should not take antidepressant drugs. For more information, read the March of Dimes article Depression During Pregnancy.

Congenital heart defects

Friday, December 18th, 2009

There have been some painful posts and resulting discussion this week on congenital heart defects (CHD) on Twitter. So I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background information about these conditions and what the March of Dimes is doing to help.

About 35,000 infants (1 out of every 125) are born with heart defects each year in the United States. The term congenital heart defect is a general term used to describe many types of rare heart disorders. The term congenital heart defect is not a diagnosis in itself. Some of the most common heart defects include: patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), septal defects, coarctation of the aorta, heart valve abnormalities, tetralogy of fallot, transposition of the great arteries, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Click here to learn more.

Over the past ten years, the March of Dimes has invested over $36 million in heart related research, including CHDs.  A number of scientists funded by the March of Dimes are studying genes that may underlie specific heart defects. The goal of this research is to better understand the causes of congenital heart defects, in order to develop ways to prevent them. Grantees also are looking at how environmental factors (such as a form of vitamin A called retinoic acid) may contribute to congenital heart defects. One grantee is seeking to understand why some babies with serious heart defects develop brain injuries, in order to learn how to prevent and treat them.

If you have questions or concerns about a specific birth defect, please drop us a note at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and we’ll gladly provide you with information.

Pregnancy: How many weeks are best for baby?

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

pregnant2Did you know that it’s usually best for the baby if pregnancy lasts 39-40 weeks?

Today, researchers published a study showing that many women are confused about the length of  full-term pregnancy. This isn’t surprising since there’s a lot of mixed up info out there.

In the study, one out of every four women thought a full-term pregnancy lasts 34-36 weeks. Half of the women said it’s 37-38 weeks.

Only one out of every four gave the “right answer”: 39-40 weeks. That is the time recommended by most medical experts.

What’s the most important thing that happens during the last few weeks of pregnancy? The baby’s brains and lungs are still developing. It’s usually best if that development happens inside mom’s uterus, rather than outside in the world.

To learn more, read the March of Dimes article “Why the Last Weeks of Pregnancy Count.”

This new study was published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Concerns about the painkiller Darvon: Risk of overdose, death

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking several steps to reduce the risk of overdose from Darvon (also called Darvocet and propoxyphene). Darvon is usually prescribed for pain. Every year, some people die when they take too much of this medication.

As a result of the FDA decision, label warnings will be strengthened, and new research will be done.

If you need a painkiller, talk to your health care provider about the choices available to you, including aspirin, ibuprofen, oxycodone and codeine. For all medications, take only the recommended amount and no more. If you are pregnant, don’t take any painkillers without first talking to your health care provider.

Off-label use of prescription drugs

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

medicationsWe’ve all heard it a million times: Follow the directions on the label when you take your medication.

But sometimes health care providers prescribe a drug in ways that the label doesn’t talk about. This is called off-label use.

Often this is a good thing. The provider may know about research that has found a new use for the drug and the instructions have not yet been updated. But as with all medicine, there are also risks involved. Researchers may still be learning about the new way the drug is being used.

If your provider recommends an off-label use, ask if the drug is likely to work better than an approved treatment.

For more info, visit the Web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And, of course, if you’re pregnant, don’t take any medications without first talking to your health care provider.

A promising treatment for peanut allergy? Maybe

Monday, March 16th, 2009

peanuts-sm1The media has been buzzing about a possible new treatment for peanut allergy. Here’s what we know.

Scientists from Duke University presented new research at a national medical meeting on Sunday. This sparked headlines and conversation.

One pilot study involved 33 children who were severely allergic to peanuts. Symptoms of this allergy include stomach upset, skin reactions and, in the most serious cases, breathing problems that can be deadly.

Researchers gave each child a dose of peanuts every day using a powder sprinkled on food. At the beginning, the dose was very small. Over time, it increased, amounting to 15 peanuts per day.

Most children in the study did not have allergic reactions. But four dropped out of the research because they did. After 2 1/2 years, five children in the study stopped the treatment. They can now eat peanuts just like their friends who aren’t allergic.

Are these five children “cured” of peanut allergy? It’s too early to say. Doctors will watch them carefully for several years to know for sure.

So what does this mean for people who have peanut allergies? Too early to say. More research is needed to confirm the pilot study.

Most important: Don’t try this on yourself or on your children. All the children in the study received their doses under the supervision of medical professionals. They were watched closely for allergic reactions.

To learn more about food allergies, read the March of Dimes article on our Web site.

Another word on cord blood

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

In case you missed it, check out Pam’s post from last week on cord blood.  I find the whole thing fascinating. I’m not talking about the potential benefits of stem cell research either. I’m talking about the business behind it. Now that I’m expecting I’m targeted with advertisements on a regular basis to save my baby’s cord blood for personal use. Whether I’m flipping through a pregnancy magazine, shopping at a maternity store or watching TV, I can’t seem to escape the image of that little baby looking down at her belly button.

I’ve done a lot of reading (not including the pamphlets dropped in my shopping bag) and talked to my provider about it. Based on our family medical history, my husband and I decided against storing our babies cord blood in a private bank. We are very much in favor and interested in donating the cord blood however.

There is no cost to parents who donate their baby’s cord blood to a public bank. However, this option is not available everywhere. The National Marrow Donor Program provides a complete listing of participating hospitals; the program’s phone number is (800) 627-7692. Parents who choose to donate their baby’s cord blood must complete a lengthy parental health and disease questionnaire. The mother also must have blood tests for diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. In some cases, parents may have to pay for these tests if their insurance does not cover them.

Food allergies: Lots to learn

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I dropped by my local Dunkin’ Donuts the other morning (I confess; I had a pumpkin doughnut). And there was a little sign saying that some of their products contain nuts. This gentle warning, in DD’s bright orange and pink, was for people who have nut allergies. Food allergies are on the rise in the United States, and no one really knows why.

In the United States, 4 to 6 out of every 100 children under the age of 4 are allergic to at least one food. Most allergic reactions are mild. But a small number are very serious and even life threatening. In the worst cases, the blood pressure drops, and the person has trouble breathing.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) says, “Little is known about why only some people develop food allergies.” So the NIH has funded 12 new studies at medical institutions across the country. According to The New York Times, some scientists say this will be the most comprehensive research on food allergies ever conducted.

To learn about the eight foods that cause most food allergy reactions, read the March of Dime article Food Allergies and Baby.

National children’s health study: Important and historic

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

In January, the National Children’s Study will officially begin. Researchers will start contacting pregnant women to see if they would like their child to participate. This is the largest, long-term study of children in the history of the United States.

The research will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. The goal is to improve the health and well-being of children.

The study will focus on “environmental influences” on health. The researchers define the word “environment” very broadly. They will examine genetic, biological, psychosocial, and natural and man-made environmental factors.

Alan Fleischman, M.D.,  medical director of the March of Dimes, chairs the federal advisory committee for the study.

For more information, visit the study’s Web site.

To learn how you can keep the environment safe for your baby, read the March of Dimes articles. For information on environmental risks in pregnancy, click here.

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