DURHAM, N.C., Feb. 24, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia may be linked to slower biological development in infants, according to a new study funded by the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program (ECHO) at the National Institutes of Health.
The study found that newborns who were exposed to these two pregnancy complications were biologically younger than their chronologic gestational age—an effect that was most noticeable in female infants. The results provide an important clue about how these common pregnancy complications may affect infants and health outcomes later in childhood.
“In the future, we plan to continue our research with a larger sample of participants and investigate whether these biological changes detected at birth are linked to health outcomes later in childhood,” said Carrie Breton, ScD, MPH, an ECHO Program investigator at the University of Southern California. “If so, doctors and researchers could use that knowledge to develop targeted interventions that can reduce the adverse effects of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes on children’s health.”
During the study, ECHO researchers collected DNA samples from 1,801 newborns from 12 ECHO cohorts across the United States. They used these samples to evaluate each infant’s epigenetic age. Epigenetic age is a pattern of chemicals in the blood that reflects biological age rather than just chronological age. Researchers then compared the epigenetic age to the infant’s chronological age at birth (measured in pregnancy weeks).
Dr. Breton and Christine Ladd-Acosta, PhD, an ECHO Program investigator from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, led this collaborative ECHO research published in JAMA Network Open.
Ladd-Acosta, C. et al. Analysis of Pregnancy Complications and Epigenetic Gestational Age of Newborns. JAMA Network Open. DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.0672
About ECHO: ECHO is a nationwide research program supported by the NIH. Launched in 2016, ECHO aims to enhance the health of children for generations to come. ECHO investigators study the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development. For more information, visit echochildren.org.
About the NIH: NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information, visit www.nih.gov.
SOURCE NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program