Eleven percent of live births are preterm birth (PTB). Preterm infants suffer a range of short-term and long-term morbidities. The research goals in the Neonatology Research Team Lab co-led by Dr. De-Ann Pillers are to investigate pathogenic mechanisms of children’s diseases, especially those disorders affecting preterm infants. Our research is focused on diseases affecting lungs, eyes, and nutrient biochemical metabolism. We are also interested in genetic variation in preterm birth and clinical trial research to find better treatments for diseases affecting preterm neonates.
Pathogenic Mechanisms of Chronic Lung Diseases in Preterm Neonates
In the area of lung diseases, we research bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD) that seriously threatens the life and health of preterm infants. We investigate the mechanism of hyperoxia in causing BPD, and we identify genes and signaling pathways that mediate the pathogenesis of this disorder.
Nutrient Metabolism in Preterm Infants
Because of advances in neonatal care technology, infants can survive even when they are born as early as 22 weeks of gestational age (a full-term infant is born at ≥ 37 weeks). Infants born at early gestational stages may be different from those born at later stages in nutrient need and metabolism. To meet their optimal nutrient need, we evaluate nutrient metabolic differences in preterm infants born at various gestational stages.
Genetic Variation in Preterm Birth
Genetic variation is one of the factors that can cause preterm birth. By researching single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in preterm birth, we found that SNPs in Toll-like receptor 1 were associated with preterm birth.
Mechanisms Causing Retinopathy of Prematurity
Diseases affecting eyes are another research interest. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a neonatal disorder that can lead to blindness in preterm infants. We investigate mechanisms causing ROP by risk factors including hyperoxia in the eyes of those neonates.
Clinical Trial Studies
We also conduct clinical trial studies to find and confirm new medications for diseases that affect preterm infants.