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Health Science Center to Have Key Role in Largest U.S. Children's Study
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston will play a key role in local recruitment for the largest child health study in the United States.
The National Children's Study will follow 100,000 children across the United States from before birth through age 21 to identify genetic and environmental factors that contribute to health disorders and conditions of childhood and adulthood. Across Harris County, 2,000 women will be recruited during pregnancy. In all, there are 105 study locations across the nation.
"This is a landmark study. It will be the largest study of women and children that will take place in our lifetime. It should provide valuable information that can help us better understand such conditions as autism, childhood obesity and prematurity," said Sean Blackwell, M.D., principal investigator for The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and associate professor in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences.
"This is a groundbreaking study to assess the influence of gene-environment interactions on the origins of the most important health problems that affect both children and adults. In this respect, this work has the potential to be one of the most informative and useful clinical studies ever conducted," said Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., dean of the UT Medical School at Houston. Blackwell, director of Pregnancy and Birth Assessment for the UT portion of the study, and Chris Greeley, M.D., director of the pediatric component, will lead the effort in assessing women and children in Harris County, Colasurdo said.
Both the UT Medical School at Houston and The University of Texas School of Public Health, which are part of the UT Health Science Center, will participate in the study.
By studying children through their different phases of growth and development, researchers will be better able to understand the role genetic and environmental factors have on health and disease.
According to a statement by the National Children's Study, "Findings from the study will be made available as the research progresses, making potential benefits known to the public as soon as possible. Ultimately, the National Children's Study will be one of the richest research efforts geared towards studying children's health and development and will form the basis of child health guidance, interventions and policy for generations to come."
"Researchers at the UT School of Public Health will be able to assess children and pregnant women in Harris Country for exposure to diverse environmental agents in the area, which is home to a number of large petrochemical and port facilities. This information will provide us with a better understanding of how these environmental conditions interact with other factors to influence health outcomes," said Guy S. Parcel, Ph.D., John P. McGovern Professor in Health Promotion and former dean of the School of Public Health.
The UT Health Science Center at Houston will receive $3.5 million from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to fund its efforts.
"Due to the strengths of our clinical research programs in obstetrics and neonatology, with the leadership of Drs. Susan Ramin and Kathleen Kennedy and our strong partnerships with the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System and Harris County Hospital District, we are able to be key players in the National Children's Study for Harris County," said Blackwell. "This is a unique opportunity for collaborations among investigators from different disciplines. We are very fortunate to have such an infrastructure as the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, which I hope will facilitate these efforts."
To conduct the research, the UT Medical School at Houston and the UT School of Public Health will be working with Baylor College of Medicine, which is the lead institution for Harris County, and The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.
"Being awarded the NCS grant is a wonderful opportunity for the Houston community. It is absolutely terrific to have joint collaboration among the various medical institutions," said Susan Ramin, M.D., Emma Sue Hightower Professor and chair of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the medical school.
By Melissa McDonald, Institutional Advancement
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