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As the focal point within the NICHD for extramural research and research training in nutrition science and pediatric endocrinology, the PGNB supports research aimed at understanding basic and clinical aspects of growth and development. To carry out this mission, the Branch supports research to understand 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.
New: Research Priorities
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.
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
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 of the 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.
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.