The National Institutes of Health has awarded nearly $144 million in new grants to develop new tools that can help investigate environmental exposures from the womb through later years in a child’s life and how this exposure affects child health and development, according to a news release.
“Technology advances have become a powerful driver in studying and understanding the start and spread of disease,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, in a news release. “These projects will expand the toolbox available to researchers to improve our ability to characterize environmental exposures, understand how environmental exposures affect in utero development and function, and bolster the infrastructure for exposure research.”
Environmental exposures are a leading cause of morbidity and mortality for mothers and children worldwide, according to the release, and include chemical and biological factors such as air pollution, pesticides and infectious diseases, as well as psychosocial factors such as education, stress and neglect.
The three initiatives for these new awards include:
Develop new tools to enhance studies of environmental influences of pediatric diseases. This initiative includes developing sensor-based, integrated health monitoring systems through a program called Pediatric Research using Integrated Sensor Monitoring Systems. These systems will allow researchers to measure environmental, physiological and behavioral factors in epidemiological studies in children. This initiative also will establish the Children’s Health and Exposure Analysis Resource to provide researchers with access to laboratory and statistical analyses for their research.
Study the influence of the environment on in-utero development to identify the cause of future diseases and conditions via the extension of the Human Placenta Project, which aims to support the initial stages of development of next-generation placental imaging and assessment technologies and methods. The focus of this research is on identifying technology gaps and developing new technologies to explore the effects of environmental factors on placental structure and function during pregnancy.
Expand the examination of environmental influences on later child development by supplementing existing research grants.
Projects involve five NIH institutes and centers: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
These projects will advance the tools and knowledge base for a new multi-year initiative that will launch in fiscal year 2016 called the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes program.