PGNB’s mission is to foster and cultivate biomedical research in pediatric endocrinology, growth and development, and nutrition to advance scientific understanding and promote health. The branch is also committed to the development and training of investigators in branch-relevant areas, and to supporting small business projects within the branch portfolio.
In pursuit of its mission, PGNB supports research to understand the mechanisms of growth and development at the gene-molecular level and at higher levels of cell and organ function. As the focal point for NICHD extramural research and training in pediatric endocrinology and nutrition science, branch staff also engage with and support investigators to identify knowledge gaps and opportunities for scientific advancement.
Acquisition of Peak Bone Mass and Strength
Gap: Research is needed to understand the determinants of bone acquisition to advance lifestyle strategies or pharmacologic interventions to maximize peak bone mass and strength in adolescence and early adulthood to prevent osteoporosis, bone fragility, and fracture later in life.
Priority: Identify the complex molecular processes contributing to skeletal growth and acquisition of bone mass and strength throughout childhood, including projects that focus on bone-muscle-fat interactions throughout childhood, to further explain the normal trajectory of these interactions during growth and pubertal maturation. Studies leading to identification of risk factors for bone fragility are also needed, especially in children with chronic illness.
Growth and Development in Children with Diabetes
Gap: Research is needed to understand and prevent the effects of hypo- and hyperglycemia on growth and development in children with diabetes or other disorders associated with dysglycemia.
Priority: Explain the mechanisms that underlie the harmful effects of dysglycemia on the brain, linear growth, muscle, and bone.
Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
Gap: Early and effective interventions are needed to prevent the development of obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in individuals exposed to either overnutrition or undernutrition in utero.
Priority: Identify the molecular drivers that transmit the memory of adverse intrauterine environments into adolescence and adulthood.
Intestinal Microbiome in Health and Disease
Gap: Research is needed to understand better the role of the intestinal microbiome, factors that affect the development of the intestinal microbiome, and the effect of dietary exposures (including human milk) on the intestinal microbiome in health and disease.
Priority: Explain the factors that affect the gut microbiome and lead to impaired growth and alterations in metabolism in children.
Nutrient Biomarkers and Bioindicators of Health Promotion for Disease Prevention
Gap: Research is lacking to discern the most informative biomarkers and bioindicators of nutrient status.
Priority: Identify markers and indicators of nutrient status in animal models and humans (particularly during pregnancy and early childhood) using systems science approaches.
Nutrition and Pharmacology
Gap: Research is needed on understanding the effects of nutrients on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs used during pregnancy and in the pediatric period.
Priority: Apply analytic methods to the intersection of nutrition and pharmacology in a systematic way to develop a set of principles that enable the accurate prediction of nutrient-drug interactions, particularly in pregnant women and the pediatric population.
Gap: There is a need to improve the understanding of the pathogenesis of disorders of linear growth (short and tall stature), bone accrual, and pubertal timing and maturation, as well as disorders of hypogonadism, both congenital and acquired.
Priority: Advance research methods and measures to permit more accurate diagnoses and improved therapies for disorders of linear growth. (Note: PGNB encourages multicenter, multidisciplinary studies to enable investigators to share resources and study larger numbers of patients.)
- Growth and Development: Includes basic research on growth-promoting polypeptides, hypothalamic releasing factors, basic and clinical studies of the etiology and therapy of growth retardation, and studies of trans-membrane signaling in effector cells
- Pediatric Endocrinology: Supports basic and translational research in areas related to pediatric endocrinology, including studies on pubertal maturation, obesity, and other aspects of physiologic development; disorders of linear growth, bone accrual, and pubertal maturation; genetic determinants of skeletal deformities, bone mass accrual, and peak bone mass; congenital and environmental causes of childhood obesity and potential interventions; and the molecular physiology of congenital and acquired pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and gonadal disorders, and the development of new therapies for these disorders
- Nutrition: Investigates the complex nutritional relationships between the mother and her fetus, the placental transfer of nutrients, and the role of nutrition in infant development
- Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Studies conditions that result from gene-environmental interactions from the preconception period throughout pregnancy and into early childhood
- Prevention of Chronic Disease: Focuses on understanding and preventing obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes
- Child Health Research Career Development Award Program: Supports pediatrician-scientists during their fellowship training years; funding predominantly supports training clinicians in basic science to stimulate innovative research in pediatrics and to provide junior investigators with a foundation to pursue academic career goals (Visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov/grants-contracts/training-careers/extramural/institutional for more information)
- Pediatric Scientist Development Program: Provides 2 or 3 years of 100%-protected laboratory time without clinical responsibilities for trainees to explore basic science. (Visit https://www.nichd.nih.gov/grants-contracts/training-careers/extramural/institutional for more information)
- Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study (BMDCS): The BMDCS (2001-2011) offered an unprecedented opportunity to identify predictors of the timing and magnitude of peak bone mass, a major determinant of osteoporosis in later adulthood. BMDCS investigators provided reference curves for bone accrual and linear growth velocity that are comparable to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention linear growth and weight gain curves for children and adolescents. The reference curves generated by this carefully executed study provided the gold standard for normal bone accrual for generations to come. The study’s results enable practitioners to identify the adverse effects that chronic illness has on bone. Additionally, the results have clarified the effects that the timing of pubertal onset have on bone density and linear growth, as well as the need for height adjustment for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry results in children. Data are available in NICHD’s Data and Specimen Hub (DASH)
- Child Health and Development Study (CHDS): The CHDS includes 20,000 pregnancies and began in 1959 as a companion to the Collaborative Perinatal Study; its database and biosamples are available in NICHD's Data and Specimen Hub (DASH). Data from CHDS are particularly relevant for investigators studying maternal and placental origins of disease, especially the long-term effects of in utero exposure to organochlorines, such as DDT
- Fels Longitudinal Study : This is a large, long-running study evaluating human growth and body composition changes over the lifespan. NICHD-supported investigators followed more than 1,400 individuals enrolled at birth, beginning in 1930. The Fels Study provided growth data for the North American Standard Tables of Height and Weight, as well as for a comprehensive atlas of bone age and skeletal development. These standards are in widespread use in the United States and abroad.
- Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes (HAPO) Study PubMed Articles: Lists scientific articles that resulted from the HAPO study, which was funded in part through PGNB
- National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) Tools : This public platform provides resources such as the Measures Registry, the Catalogue of Surveillance Systems, and the Youth Compendium of Physical Activities, which may be useful for investigators studying childhood obesity. NICHD is an NCCOR member and has supported the development of these resources
- Andrew Bremer, M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S., Branch Chief
Main Research Areas: Diabetes (type 1, type 2, and gestational); developmental origins of health and disease; metabolic programming; metabolic syndrome in children; the causes of obesity in childhood and the sequelae of childhood obesity in adulthood; maternal obesity and the effect of maternal nutrition on fetal programming; infant and childhood nutrition
- Layla Esposito, Program Official
Main Research Areas: Behavioral and environmental interventions for childhood obesity prevention and treatment; behavioral and psychosocial determinants of childhood obesity
- Daniel Raiten, Program Official
Main Research Areas: Infant feeding (maternal/fetal aspects of infant feeding); mammary gland biology and lactation (act of breastfeeding, biology of milk production, milk as a nutrient, etc.); nutrition (childhood, adolescent, HIV-related, and micronutrients)
- Karen Winer, Medical Officer
Main Research Areas: Bone health and osteoporosis prevention; muscle-bone-fat interactions related to growth during infancy and childhood; determinants of peak bone mass; genetic disorders leading to congenital skeletal disease or disorders of growth or maturation; pediatric endocrinology including disorders of pubertal tempo and timing or linear growth; childhood disorders of the thyroid, gonads, adrenal, and pituitary glands
The Determinants of Peak Bone Mass: A State of the Science Workshop was co-sponsored by PGNB, the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. The proceedings are available in the Journal of Pediatrics.