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New Ways To Predict The Risk Of Gestational Diabetes

DRC Director's Report - November 2017

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Wei Bao, Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, and a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center (FOEDRC) was recently awarded a $419,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund a project entitled: Pregnancy-associated microRNAs in plasma as predictors of gestational diabetes.  Some of the preliminary work that contributed to this award were provided by pilot funding from the FOEDRC.

Pregnancy is a condition characterized by progressive insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is a common pregnancy complication that is defined as glucose intolerance with onset or first recognition during pregnancy. GDM affects 9% of pregnant women in the United States and its prevalence is increasing. Understanding the etiology of GDM and early identification of women at risk of GDM is of great importance, because GDM is associated with increased risk of adverse health outcomes in both mothers and their children. As a pregnancy complication, GDM may involve not only pathways shared with type 2 diabetes, but also pregnancy-related unique factors.

The DNA within the human placenta  generates a diverse transcriptome, including numerous microRNA species. Recently, the findings that microRNAs of placental origin are released in the maternal circulation throughout pregnancy has raised the exciting prospect of using microRNA expression profiles as non-invasive markers of placental function during pregnancy. Pregnancy-associated microRNAs in the maternal circulation may represent a channel for fetal-maternal communication. However, the role of pregnancy-associated microRNAs in the development and prediction of GDM remains unknown.

In this proposed study, Dr. Bao will investigate: (1) The association between pregnancy-associated circulating microRNAs during early pregnancy and subsequent risk of GDM. (2) The potential utility of pregnancy-associated circulating microRNAs during early pregnancy in predicting the risk of GDM, and (3) The associations of pregnancy-associated circulating microRNAs with placental hormones and GDM-related metabolic markers in maternal plasma samples. The project will use plasma samples along with data that are already collected in the Maternal Fetal Tissue Bank at the University of Iowa. Dr. Bao’s team will measure pregnancy-associated microRNAs (using PCR) in early pregnancy plasma samples of GDM cases and matched controls. This information will be correlated with levels of placental hormones and GDM-related metabolic markers and information on maternal characteristics such as age, body weight, and clinical diagnosis of GDM. These studies are important because early prediction of GDM, will not only improve treatment options for the mother, but will also prevent complications in the developing infant.

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The Fraternal Order of Eagles, an international nonprofit organization, unites fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice and equality, to make human life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope.

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