No Link Found Between Autism and Maternal Fish Ingested During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Fish” by Dhruvaraj S is licensed under CC BY 2.0Dr Caroline M Taylor
Wellcome Trust Research Fellow
Centre for Child and Adolescent Health
Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol
Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Mercury is a toxic metal that is widespread in the environment. In pregnancy, mercury in the mother’ bloodstream is transferred through the placenta to the fetus, where is can affect development of the nervous system. Mercury from vaccines has been the focus of attention particularly in regard to a link with autism in children. However, the amount of mercury used in the vaccines is small in comparison with mercury from the diet and atmospheric pollution, and in the EU at least, childhood vaccines no longer contain this preservative. The fear that mercury is linked to autism has persisted, despite increasing evidence that this is not the case.

The aim of our study was to look at mercury from the diet rather than vaccines – specifically from fish – in pregnant women. We measured the women’s mercury levels in their blood and asked them about how much fish they ate. We then followed up their children for 9 years and recorded how many of them had autism diagnosed within that time. We also measured how many of them had autist traits by measuring their social and communication difficulties.  The data were part of the Children of the 90s study (Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children – ALSPAC), which is based in Bristol, UK.

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ADHD More Common in Grandchildren of Women Who Used DES During Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou ScD Assistant Professor Environmental Health Sciences Mailman School of Public Health Columbia University 

MarianthiAnna Kioumourtzoglou ScD
Assistant Professor
Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders, like attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been increasing. One of the hypothesized risk factors for increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders is a class of chemicals known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals are known to interfere with the endocrine system, i.e. the system that uses hormones to control and coordinate metabolism, reproduction and development. Several high production volume chemicals, ubiquitously present in commercial products, are known or suspected endocrine disruptors. Because of their widespread use in consumer products, the population-wide exposure to known and suspected EDCs is very high.

Recently, there has been increased attention in the potential effects of EDCs on neurodevelopment that span multiple generations. Animal studies have provided evidence that exposure to EDCs, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), alter the behavior and social interactions in mice in three to five generations after exposure. However, evidence of such multi-generational impacts of EDC exposure on neurodevelopment in humans is unavailable, likely because of the lack of detailed information on exposures and outcomes across generations.

For this study we leveraged information from a nationwide cohort, the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII), to investigate the potential link between exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and third generation ADHD, i.e. ADHD among the grandchildren of the women who used DES while pregnant. DES is a very potent endocrine disruptor that was prescribed between 1938 and 1971 to pregnant women thought to prevent pregnancy complications. In the United States, between 5 and 10 million women are estimated to have used DES, although the exact number is not known. DES was banned in 1971, when was linked to vaginal adenocarcinomas (a rare cancer of the reproductive system) in the daughters of the women who had used it during pregnancy. Since then, DES has been also linked to multiple other reproductive outcomes in DES daughters, as well as with some reproductive outcomes in the grandchildren of the women who used it, such as hypospadias and delated menstrual regularization. However, to our knowledge, no study to date has evaluated the association between DES, or any other EDC, and multigenerational neurodevelopment. Continue reading

Does Acupuncture Increase Live Births For Women Undergoing IVF?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Acupuncture Needle” by Acid Pix is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Caroline Smith, PhD
Professor Clinical Research
Western Sydney University Research Theme Champion Health and Wellbeing

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Despite technological improvements to IVF the success of IVF treatment remains low. Consequently, new drugs, laboratory techniques and other treatments need to be developed and rigorously tested to explore their effects on producing healthy babies for women undergoing IVF.  In 2002, the first randomised controlled trial of acupuncture administered a specific form of IVF acupuncture at the time of embryo transfer.

The results indicated the chance of achieving a pregnancy from acupuncture was twice that to women undergoing IVF treatment alone. From mid 2000s many women have started to use adjunctive treatments such as acupuncture whilst undergoing IVF.  We conducted and reported on a  pilot study in 2006 which produced results suggesting a benefit. It is important that these findings were rigorously examined in a larger trial.

Findings are presented from our trial presented in JAMA. Our study of over 800 Australian and New Zealand women undergoing acupuncture treatment during their IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycle has failed to confirm significant difference in live birth rates.

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Is It Safe to Have a Vaginal Birth after Cesarean Section?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Childbirth” by DAVID Swift is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Dr. Carmen Young
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
University of Alberta

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: For women who have had a single previous cesarean section, the optimal mode of delivery in a subsequent pregnancy is controversial. This is because there are risks and benefits to attempting a vaginal birth after cesarean section (VBAC) or having an elective repeat cesarean section. Attempted VBAC is associated with a higher risk of uterine rupture and other maternal and infant complications. Repeat cesarean sections are associated with an increased risk of surgical complications and placental complications in subsequent pregnancies. Furthermore, it is difficult to predict which patients will have a successful VBAC.

This study is unique in that it uses recent Canadian data, allowing assessment of the impact of contemporary obstetrical care on maternal and neonatal outcomes in Canada.

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Diet Soda and Excess Sugar During Pregnancy May Depress Child’s Cognition

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Soda” by Jannes Pockele is licensed under CC BY 2.0Juliana F. W. Cohen, ScM, ScD

Department of Health Sciences
Merrimack College
North Andover MA 01845.

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Sugar consumption among Americans is above recommended limits and this excess intake may have important health implications.

This study examined the associations of pregnancy and offspring sugar consumption, as well as sugar-sweetened beverages, other beverages (diet soda, juice), and fruit consumption with child cognition.

This study found that when pregnant women or their children consumed greater quantities of sugar, as well as when women consumed diet soda during pregnancy, this was associated with poorer childhood cognition.  However, children’s fruit consumption was associated with higher cognitive scores.

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Prenatal Exposure to SSRIs May Be Linked to Changes in Infant Brain Development

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jiook Cha, PhD Assistant Professor Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry  Columbia University Medical Center  New York, NY 10032

Dr. Jiook Cha

Jiook Cha, PhD
Assistant Professor
Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Columbia University Medical Center
New York, NY 10032

MedicalResearch.com: What did we already know about the connection between maternal SSRI use during pregnancy and infant brain development, and how do the current study findings add to our understanding? What’s new/surprising here and why does it matter for mothers and babies?

Response: Prior studies have shown mixed results in terms of the associations between maternal SRI use during pregnancy and offspring’s brain and cognitive development. Neurobiological studies with animal models suggest that SSRI use perturbs serotonin signaling and that this has important effects on cognitive development (a study conducted an author of this paper, Jay Gingrich, MD, PhD: Ansorge et al., 2004, Science). The human literature has been more mixed in terms of the associations of prenatal exposure to SSRI with brain and cognitive development.

In our study, we used neonatal brain imaging because this is a direct, non-invasive method to test associations between SSRI use and brain development at an early developmental stage, limiting the effects of the post-natal environment. In our study, we had two different control groups, that is, a non-depressed SSRI-free group (healthy controls), and depressed but SSRI-free (SSRI controls) group. Also, in our study we used rigorous imaging analytics that significantly improve the quantitative nature of MR-derived signals from the brain structure using two of the nation’s fastest supercomputers (Argonne National Laboratory and Texas Advanced Computing Center) and allows robust reconstruction of brain’s grey and white matter structure in the infants’ brains.

We report a significant association of prenatal exposure to SSRI with a volume increases within many brain areas, including the amygdala and insula cortex, and an increase in white matter connection strength between the amygdala and insular cortex. We were surprised by the magnitude of the effects (or the statistical effect size), compared with other brain imaging studies in psychiatry with children or adults’ brains. Importantly, it should be noted that our estimates of brain structure are still experimental and for research-purpose only. This means that our data need to be replicated and rigorously tested against confounders in order to make a firm conclusion. While our study suggests a “potential” association between prenatal exposure to SSRI and a change in fetal or infant brain development, we still need more research. 

tracts_in_the_brain

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Two Genes Linked to Severe Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marlena Fejzo, PhD Aassociate researche David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA.

Dr. Fejzo

Marlena Fejzo, PhD
Aassociate researche
David Geffen School of Medicine
UCLA. 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Most women experience some nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, and the worst 2% are diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum which is associated with poor maternal and fetal outcomes. I had HG in 2 pregnancies. In my second pregnancy my HG was so severe that I could not move without vomiting and did not keep any food or water down for 10 weeks. I was put on a feeding tube, but ultimately lost the baby in the second trimester. I am a medical scientist by training so I looked into what was known about HG. At the time, very little was known, so I decided to study it. I partnered with the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation (HER) and we did a survey on family history of .Hyperemesis Gravidarum that provided evidence to support a role for genes. I collected saliva samples from HG patients and their unaffected acquaintances to do a DNA study. Then I partnered with the personal genetics company, 23andMe to do a genome scan and validation study, which identified 2 genes, GDF15 and IGFBP7, linked to HG.

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Zika Birth Defects More Severe When Mothers Infected During First Trimester

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

This image depicts a posterior view of a patient’s back, captured in a clinical setting, upon presenting with this blotchy rash. After a diagnostic work-up, it was determined that the rash had been caused by the Zika virus. Note: Not all patients with Zika get a rash CDC image

This image depicts a posterior view of a patient’s back, captured in a clinical setting, upon presenting with this blotchy rash. After a diagnostic work-up, it was determined that the rash had been caused by the Zika virus.
Note: Not all patients with Zika get a rash
CDC image

Professor Bruno Hoen, M.D., Ph.D
Dept of Infectious Diseases, Dermatology, and Internal Medicine
University Medical Center of Guadeloupe 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Zika virus (ZIKV) infection during pregnancy has been identified only recently to cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly, other brain defects, and the congenital Zika syndrome. However, the magnitude of this risk was not clearly defined, with discrepancies between observational data from Brazil and the U.S. Zika Pregnancy Registry. We implemented a cohort study of pregnant women who have been exposed to ZIKV throughout the outbreak that hit the Caribbean in 2016.
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Can Probiotics and Fish Oil Supplements During Pregnancy Reduce Childhood Allergies?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr Robert Boyle, 
Reader in Paediatric Allergy
Department of Medicine
Imperial College London

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Diet in early life may influence whether or not an infant develops allergies or autoimmune disease. We undertook a project for the UK Food Standards Agency to evaluate the evidence for this.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? 

Response: We found that a probiotic supplement during the last 2-4 weeks of pregnancy and during breastfeeding may reduce an infant’s chances of developing eczema; and that omega-3 fatty acid supplements taken from the middle of pregnancy (20 weeks gestation) through the first few months of breastfeeding may reduce an infant’s chances of developing food allergy. We also found links between longer duration of breastfeeding and improved infant health, but for most other variations in diet during pregnancy or infancy we did not find evidence for a link with allergies or autoimmune disease.

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Pregnancy in Type 1 Diabetes: Glucose Control Can Reduce Fetal Overgrowth

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rachel McGrath BSc (Hons), PhD Senior Research Fellow - Department of Endocrinology, RNSH Clinical Senior Lecturer - Northern Clinical School University of Sydney

Dr. Rachel McGrath

Rachel McGrath BSc (Hons), PhD
Senior Research Fellow – Department of Endocrinology, RNSH
Clinical Senior Lecturer – Northern Clinical School
University of Sydney 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Women with type 1 diabetes are significantly more likely to experience complications during pregnancy and to have infants with high birth weights. This can result in adverse outcomes at the time of delivery for both mother and baby, and can also predispose infants to obesity and chronic disease in later life.

The relationship between maternal blood glucose levels and foetal growth in type 1 diabetes in pregnancy has not been completely elucidated. Thus, we examined the association between maternal glycaemic control and foetal growth by examining serial ultrasound measurements and also by determining the relationship between HbA1c (a measure of circulating glucose exposure over a three month time period) and infant birth weight.

We found that maternal glucose levels were directly related to foetal abdominal circumference in the late second and third trimesters and also to birth weight. We also confirmed the results of previous studies to show that the optimal HbA1c during pregnancy to reduce the likelihood of large-for-gestational-age neonates is < 6%.  Continue reading