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RI Hospital Wins $2.1M for Embryonic Epigenetic Studies

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Rhode Island's Women & Infants Hospital has won $2.1 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health for research into gene expression inside the womb and how environmental triggers or disturbances may affect embryo development.

The hospital will use the funding to continue as an NIH Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) for Perinatal Biology, specifically for research into embryo, placenta, and heart development, newborn infection susceptibility, and the effects of intrauterine development later in life.

In one research program at Brown University, scientists will study the epigenetic effects of intrauterine development, the environment, and alterations in placental DNA. Changes in the uterine environment during late pregnancy can be linked to heightened risk of disease in adults, including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. The aim of the research at Brown is to find ways to optimize the intrauterine and postnatal environment in order to improve outcomes for vulnerable children.

"Our projects are focused on critical windows of development," Women & Infants Pediatrician-in-Chief James Padbury said in a statement.

"Environmental disturbance or other influences during these critical windows can have lasting effects," he added. "Our overarching hypothesis is that understanding these effects during critical developmental periods informs the mechanisms of health and disease throughout life."

Another research team in the Women & Infants' Department of Pediatrics is studying the unique mechanisms in fetal life that control cell division during heart development, and how overexpression of some of these mechanisms could be used to induce cardiac repair and regeneration after myocardial infarction during adult life.

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