Pediatric Growth and Nutrition Branch (PGNB)

Hand under X-RayOverview/Mission

As the focal point within NICHD for extramural research and research training in nutrition science and pediatric endocrinology, PGNB supports research to understand basic and clinical aspects of growth and development. To carry out this mission, the branch supports research on the biological processes that underlie normal growth and development, as well as research on how these biological processes go awry.

Major research programs for the branch include studies of: how nutrition promotes healthy growth and development; lactation and breastfeeding, including the interactions of breast milk and the microbiome, as well as the effects of breast milk's non-nutritive compounds (e.g., oligosaccharides and dipeptides) on enteric pathogens; the causes of obesity in childhood and sequelae of childhood obesity in adulthood; the genetic, nutritional, and hormonal antecedents of bone health and the origins of osteoporosis; the neuroendocrine basis of growth and the onset of puberty; and the development of the hypothalamo-pituitary adrenal, gonadal, and thyroid axes.

Acquisition of Peak Bone Strength

Gap: Research is needed to understand how to maximize peak bone strength in adolescence and early adulthood to prevent osteoporosis later in life.

Priority: Ascertain the impact of a variety of interventions on peak bone strength in adolescents, including dietary supplements, hormones, and pharmacologic agents; ascertain mechanical factors and directional regulators of bone growth in puberty.

Brain Development in Children with Diabetes

Gap: Research is needed to understand and prevent the effects of hyperglycemia on brain growth of diabetic children.

Priority: Elucidate the mechanisms that underlie the effects of hyperglycemia on brain growth in areas of sensorimotor processing and cognition. Develop improved real-time glucose monitoring and better treatment strategies to avoid this brain-damaging effect of hyperglycemia.

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 born at low birth weight.

Priority: Identify the molecular drivers that transmit the memory of stringent intrauterine environments into adolescence and adulthood.

Intestinal Microbiome in Health and Disease

Gap: Elucidating the roles played by the intestinal microbiome in health and disease requires an ability to identify and culture all species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses present in the intestine at any point in time.

Priority: Support the field of microbiology to develop highly specialized media and techniques for culturing elusive species of bacteria, fungi, and viruses to perform in-depth genotyping and phenotyping studies.

Nutrient Biomarkers and Bioindicators of Health Promotion for Disease Prevention

Gap: Research is lacking to discern the most informative biomarkers of nutrient status and bioindicators of system alarm that should be incorporated into microarray platforms, especially platforms employed in the field.

Priority: Employ a systems science approach to identify markers of nutrient status in animal models and human subjects that includes metabolomic studies before and after intentional perturbations of the system.

Nutrition and Pharmacology

Gap: Effects of nutrients on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics are currently at a level of descriptive science.

Priority: Apply analytic methods to the intersection of nutrition and pharmacology in a systematic way in order to develop a set of principles that enable the accurate prediction of nutrient-drug interactions.

Pediatric Endocrinology

Gap: There is a need to improve the understanding of the pathogenesis of short stature and disorders of pubertal onset.

Priority: Apply deep phenotyping and in-depth genotyping to elucidate the pathogenesis of these pediatric endocrine disorders and pave the way for new therapies.

  • 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: Addresses normal growth and physiological development, including the etiology and therapy of growth retardation
  • 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 (DOHaD): Studies conditions that result from gene-environmental interactions with roots in infancy or childhood
  • Prevention of Chronic Disease: Focuses on understanding and preventing obesity, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes
  • Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study (BMDCS): Now-complete multicenter, longitudinal study of bone accrual in healthy children and adolescents
  • Andrew Bremer, M.D., Ph.D., M.A.S., Branch Chief
  • Tamika Carney, Lead Extramural Support Assistant
  • Daniel Raiten, Health Scientist Administrator
    Main Research Areas: Infant feeding (maternal/fetal aspects of infant feeding) and mammary biology and lactation (act of breastfeeding, biology of milk production, milk as nutrient, etc.); metabolic programming; nutrition (childhood, adolescent, HIV Related, and micronutrients)
  • Karen Winer, Medical Officer
    Main Research Areas: Bone health (calcium metabolism, osteoporosis) and bone health-related training; growth and growth factors (Insulin Growth Factor); physiology (in the context of pediatric growth and nutrition); puberty and endocrinology (age at first menses); training: pediatric growth and nutrition

Highlights

  • The Determinants of Peak Bone Mass Workshop was co-sponsored by PGNB. Proceedings are available in the Journal of Pediatrics.

 

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