Cahill, Alison G, MD
Characterizing neurodevelopment and neurologic injury in infants born to diabetic women
General Research Subject: Type 2 Diabetes
Focus: Diabetic Dyslipidemia, Integrated Physiology, Integrated Physiology\Fatty Acid Metabolism, Other
Type of Grant: Clinical Science and Epidemiology
Project Start Date: January 1, 2013
Project End Date: December 31, 2015
Diabetes Type: Type 2 diabetes
Little is known about the characteristics and extent of delayed neurologic development in children born to women with obesity and diabetes. Even less is known about the reasons why this occurs, making it impossible based on current science, to prevent this from occurring. We plan to characterize neurodevelopmental delay in children born to obese women with diabetes, compared to those born to obese women without diabetes as well as lean women, at 2-years in order to better understand the types of delay that occur in infants born to diabetic mothers (IDM). Because it has been shown the pregnant women with diabetes have abnormalities in their fat metabolism as well as glucose metabolism, we will examine the role of abnormalities in fat metabolism in neurodevelopment of IBDW.
What area of diabetes research does your project cover? What role will this particular project play in preventing, treating, and curing diabetes?
This research project aims to begin to characterize the link between metabolic disturbances in obese and diabetic women during pregnancy and neurodevelopment in their off-spring. While increases in risk of delay have been identified in these children, it is not known what maternal metabolic disturbances in pregnancy lead to injury. Once known, we will be able to treat them and ultimately prevent lasting neurologic injury in the off-spring.
If a person with diabetes were to ask you how your project will help them in the future, how would you respond?
Diabetes is the most common complication of pregnancy, and the rates are increasing. We have come to learn that it is not just the pregnancy itself that is high-risk, but even with excellent sugar control during pregnancy, infants born to these mothers have health risks during their lifetime. One of these risks is neurodevelopmental delay. Once we understand why this happens, we can begin to improve how we care for pregnant women with diabetes and improve the health of their infants.
Why is it important for you, personally, to become involved in diabetes research? What role will this award play in your efforts?
As a high-risk obstetrician, diabetes is the most common disease among my patients. The ability to improve how we care for them in order to improve the health of mothers and their children is personal. Pregnancy is a unique opportunity in which the ability to better care for women with diabetes during pregnancy directly affects two lives, not one. The award is critical to our mission of understanding why pregnancies complicated by obesity and diabetes result in an increase in neurodevelopmental delay in the off-spring. Once understood, we can begin to treat pregnant women with diabetes differently.
In what direction do you see the future of diabetes research going?
As the prevalence of diabetes continues to rise in parallel to the obesity epidemic, the need for research to improve our clinical care increases as well. In obstetrics, the opportunity is equaled. Our current clinical management scheme for pregnant women with diabetes is simple relative to what we have come to understand about the metabolic complexities of diabetes. I expect additional clinical and translational outcomes-based research will lead to a change in the approach to the care for pregnant women with diabetes and obesity.
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