Public Release: 

Pittsburgh researchers target genetic, environmental threats to maternal and fetal health

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 28 - The Pittsburgh Development Center of the Magee-Womens Research Institute, and four other Oakland-based health care and academic institutions will share a $5.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's Office of Research on Women's Health to study genetic and environmental causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes over five years.

Researchers from the Pittsburgh Development Center, Magee-Womens Hospital, the University of Pittsburgh, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University will be partners in the project as an NIH-designated Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) on Sex and Gender Factors Affecting Women's Health. The Pittsburgh-based team will be one of 11 designated by the NIH in the U.S., and the only one in Pennsylvania.

Leading the effort will be principal investigator Gerald Schatten, Ph.D., director of the Pittsburgh Development Center; and Sarah Berga, M.D., a professor in the departments of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences and psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"We all know that genetic inheritance plays a vital role in overall health," said Dr. Schatten, who also is vice chair for research development and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive sciences, cell biology and physiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine."But prenatal environmental exposures also help to trace a lifelong health history. This is a major, under-investigated priority that affects not only women's health, but also the health of developing fetuses and infants."

The Pittsburgh team will conduct clinical and pre-clinical studies that focus on the genetic components of recurrent miscarriage, normal and abnormal pregnancy and the maternal and fetal consequences of tobacco smoke exposure. Research protocols will use non-invasive diagnostic imaging scans including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT). Through use of unique genetic markers and imaging, researchers should be able to track development at the cellular level, mapping the effects of genetic variants that jeopardize healthy fetal growth and pregnancy.

This is tremendously exciting for us," said Dr. Berga, who also is director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Magee-Womens Hospital of the UPMC Health System. "Data that we gather may one day answer questions about major women's health problems regarding the dynamic interplay among fetal and maternal genetics and the costs of our earliest environmental exposures."


Other investigators for this Pittsburgh Development Center consortium are J. Richard Chaillet, M.D., Ph.D., and Patrizia Luppi, M.D., both of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; Julie DeLoia, Ph.D., and James Roberts, M.D., both of the Magee-Womens Research Institute; Eric Ahrens, Ph.D., and Chien Ho, Ph.D., both of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU); and Calvin Simerly, Ph.D., Laura Hewitson, Ph.D., Kowit-Yu Chong, Ph.D., Christopher Navara, Ph.D., Saverio Capuano, DVM, Tracy Prosen, M.D., W. Allen Hogge, M.D., Steve Caritis, M.D., Hyagriv Simhan, M.D., Kristine Lain, M.D., Barry Stripp, Ph.D., Chet Mathis, Ph.D. and N. Scott Mason, Ph.D. In addition, all are faculty members of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Graduate School of Public Health or CMU.

The NIH's SCOR grants are given in partnership with the Office of Research on Women's Health to foster interdisciplinary and collaborative research on issues affecting women's health. The ultimate aim is to improve the health of women through biomedical and behavioral research.


Michele D. Baum
UPMC News Bureau
PHONE: (412) 647-3555

Diane Lewis
Magee-Womens Hospital
PHONE: (412) 641-1861

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.