Women & Infants' Research/Clinical Trials Homepage
Jacob Canick, PhD, co-director of the Division of Medical Screening and Special Testing in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is best known for his work to develop and test effective obstetric screenings for chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. His research helped revolutionize how and when pregnant women are tested. He continues his pioneering work by studying a maternal blood test that may boost the detection rate of Down syndrome and reduce the rate of false positive test results. This test could help move prenatal care to the point where invasive tests are no longer necessary.
Is it possible to use the stem cells from the placenta of a preterm newborn to fix that same infant’s lungs, and possibly other organs that may be damaged due to prematurity? A team led by Dr. Monique De Paepe from the Division of Perinatal Pathology has generated a transgenic mouse model that replicates the lung injury of preterm human infants, a devastating complication of prematurity that is associated with long-lasting morbidity. Using this experimental model, the De Paepe team has shown that stem cells from the human placenta can transform into lung cells and regenerate injured newborn lungs. Dr. De Paepe and her collaborators hope that this novel therapeutic approach may help preterm infants, as well as adults with diseases characterized by injured or defective lung tissue.
"Millions of stem cells are left in the placenta after delivery. We believe their role is to serve as a potential backup system during the baby's first weeks (and not only to fertilize the rosebush)."
Paul DiSilvestro, MD, is director of research for the Program in Women’s Oncology. He is also principle investigator for the hospital’s participation in the prestigious National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) research protocols, and has guided the hospital to status as New England’s largest site for GOG research. In addition, Dr. DiSilvestro is co-chair of GOG’s Ovarian Cancer Committee, which focuses on the development and evaluation of new and potentially curative therapies for epithelial ovarian cancer and ovarian germ cell and stromal tumors.
James Haddow, MD, co-director of the Division of Medical Screening and Special Testing in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, is translating several years of research into clinical practice to improve the quality of life for women with thyroid deficiency. His research revealed that hypothyroidism does not present unique symptoms during pregnancy, and women often suffer undiagnosed after giving birth. By offering a basic screening test in pregnancy, when women are more likely to seek medical care, he believes hypothyroidism can be identified and effectively treated with medication.
Linda LaGasse, PhD, director of research with the Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk, has pioneered research into the effect of prenatal drug exposure on a child’s development. Through the Maternal Lifestyle Study, a longitudinal project funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), she has spent years following 1,000 children prenatally exposed to cocaine. After following them through infancy and childhood, Dr. LaGasse is now focused on the adolescence of these children, studying the origin of any poor behavior and health, obesity, and if they seem to be exhibiting antisocial behavior and early substance use. She has also established the first cross-cultural study of prenatal exposure to methamphetamine and child outcome linking New Zealand and the United States. This study has drawn subjects from Iowa, Oklahoma, California and Hawaii.
Barbara O’Brien, MD
, is the medical director of Perinatal Genetics and the Reproductive Genetics Service in the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine
, with dual fellowship training in maternal-fetal medicine and clinical genetics. Her most recent research has focused on ways to help obstetricians better manage twin gestations. She was also recently accepted into the prestigious Scholars and Leaders Program of the Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology (APGO
), which provides her the tools to accomplish outstanding teaching and educational research, helping her become a better educator and design curriculum for students, residents and fellows. Caron Zlotnick
, PhD, of the Center for Women’s Behavioral Health, is interested in women’s issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and perinatal psychiatric disorders. Currently, she is investigating whether medication, interpersonal psychotherapy, or a combination, is the most effective way to treat women with postpartum depression. In a separate study, she is also examining the effect prenatal interventions have on reducing the risk of postpartum depression in women on public assistance. Both studies are funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Juan Sanchez-Esteban, MD, is one of the original investigators supported by the Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) grant given to the Women & Infants by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Sanchez-Esteban, of the Department of Pediatrics, is studying the ways to help the lungs of premature babies develop. Knowing that fetal breathing stretches the lungs, helping them develop, he is testing whether physicians can administer the soluble factor produced when healthy lungs stretch to under-developed lungs to help promote development.
Surendra Sharma, MBBS, PhD, is working on identifying the causes of premature birth in his laboratory. Noting that inflammation in pregnancy leads to premature birth, he hypothesizes that an injection of a specific immune modulator will block the overproduction of the protein causing inflammation. He has successfully demonstrated this in laboratory models and is ready to test it on humans.