Many organizational units within the NICHD conduct and support research in pharmacology to advance knowledge and improve treatments for various diseases and conditions within the Institute's mission.
The Obstetric and Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics Branch (OPPTB) promotes research to improve the safety and effectiveness of medications for pregnant women and their fetuses and children. Recent studies include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch (PPB) has recently conducted studies on:
Researchers supported by the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research are studying pharmacologic therapies for patients with traumatic brain injury. Phases I and II clinical trials using single-drug therapy were unsuccessful, and researchers are now studying multiple pharmacological agents. Current studies include the combination of cyclosporine and dietary supplementation with choline and the use of vitamin D supplementation plus progesterone.
With support from the Contraceptive Discovery and Development Branch (CDDB), researchers may have discovered a compound that will lead to the creation of a nonsteroidal male birth control pill that causes nonpermanent sterility. Studies on mice were successful in inhibiting spermatogenesis and fertility using low levels of a compound that achieved male sterility in 1 to 2 weeks. The effects were reversible and removal of the compound resulted in the reversal of sterility.
Researchers in the Section on Growth and Obesity, part of the Division of Intramural Research, recently found that metformin, a diabetes drug known to decrease obesity and obesity-related comorbid conditions in adolescents, had similar effects on younger children. Children ages 6-12 years who were prescribed the medication had significant decreases in body mass index, body weight, and fat mass.
In addition, the Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch supports a great deal of research on therapies related to reducing the spread of HIV. For example, the Branch's Therapeutic Research in HIV Infection in Infants, Children, Adolescents, and Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Women program evaluates the pharmacokinetics and safety of new medications.
To better understand drug-resistant bacteria, a serious and growing threat to public health, researchers from the NICHD’s Cell Biology and Metabolism Program studied how a small protein interacts with a cellular pump known as AcrAB-TolC complex found in the common bacterium Escherichia coli.The three components of the E. coli AcrAB-TolC complex—AcrA, AcrB, and TolC—have been studied for their roles in multidrug resistance. This complex pumps out agents, such as drugs, that threaten the survival of bacterial cells. In addition to the complex, E. coli contains about 60 small proteins that scientists have not studied as closely. The roles of these proteins are largely unknown, but because the proteins have remained stable over time and function under certain conditions, scientists think that they have important roles in the cell. Researchers conducted a study to examine small proteins and found that a certain E. coli small protein (AcrZ), which is found in the inner membrane, interacts with the AcrAB-TolC complex and plays a role in resistance to antibiotics by helping to recognize and export certain drugs out of the cell. These findings lay the foundation for future research in determining how small proteins play a role in antibiotic resistance, which could then help scientists develop improved interventions to combat bacterial drug resistance. (PMID: 23010927)
To achieve its goals related to pharmacology research, the NICHD supports a variety of programs, networks, and centers to further research and to advance training opportunities.
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