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Pioneering Prevention
CHORI CDC Center for Excellence in Birth Defects Receives 5 Year Grant Renewal

"It provides a significant base of support to conduct birth defects research studies, and allows us to participate in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study."

CHORI is pleased to announce that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Center of Excellence for Birth Defects Research and Prevention at CHORI has received another 5 years of CDC funding. The CDC Center is a joint effort between CHORI scientist Edward Lammer, MD, of CHORI’s Center for Genetics, who acts as the California Center’s clinical director, and March of Dimes’ Gary Shaw, DrPH, who acts as the principal investigator and houses the March of Dimes California Research Division at CHORI.

“We’ve had the California Center for Excellence since 1997, so this is our third round of renewal funding,” says Dr. Lammer.

A collaborative project in which all the CDC Centers of Excellence in Birth Defects participate, the National Birth Defects Prevention Study is the largest birth defects study that has ever been undertaken, enrolling children with 30 different major malformations from five different geographical regions. As one of only five other centers in the nation that received continued CDC funding, the Center of Excellence for Birth Defects Research and Prevention at CHORI is helping lead the way forward in birth defects research.

"I think we were competitive for this grant renewal because as a Center we've been very productive in California. We've published many research papers from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, and have been able to recruit and involve a lot of families, which as made the studies successful," says Dr. Lammer, who attributes much of the publications to the hard work and dedication of March of Dimes colleague, Suzan Carmichael, PhD.

"The other reason that favors our California site is ethnic diversity, which is a real attraction for a study of birth defects. We can provide unique access to the diversity of babies born in CA, basing our study area in the 11 counties around Fresno," says Dr. Lammer.

In addition, the central valley also poses an opportunity to gather significant data on the impact of the agricultural environment on birth defects. All of these factors contribute to the continued success of the program, which continues to provide vital information about common birth defects risks.

Major revelations of the last decade include an increased risk for oral cleft defects associated with corticosteroid use, especially for asthma, during pregnancy; confirmation of increased risk for cleft lip among moms who smoke tobacco; and a newly identified link between assisted reproductive technologies and an increased risk for certain birth defects.

"We've helped identify a 2 to 3 percent increased risk of some birth defects in women who undergo in vitro fertilization."
"Although we need to conduct further investigations to gather enough clues to determine how to prevent them, we now can at least fully inform women undergoing these procedures of their risks."

These are just some of the critical data that the CDC Center of Excellence has unearthed, and hopes to continue to pioneer in the coming years.

"With the improvement in treatment of premature babies, birth defects have risen to be the number one cause of death in the first year of life," says Dr. Lammer. "We can't begin to prevent these birth defects until we understand what causes them."

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011 8:19 AM

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