NIH researchers create an atlas detailing early stages of zebrafish development

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have published an atlas of zebrafish development, detailing the gene expression programs that are activated within nearly every cell type during the first five days of development, a period in which embryos mature from a single cell into distinct cell types. These diverse cells become tissues and organs that form juvenile fish capable of swimming and looking for food.

Cannabis use in pregnancy may impair placental function

Compared to pregnant people who tested negative for cannabis use during pregnancy, pregnant people who tested positive had a 27% higher risk for disorders associated with poor functioning of the placenta, including hypertensive disorders of pregnancy or having an infant born small for gestational age, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Widespread COVID-19 vaccination likely halted spike in preterm birth

By late 2022, widespread COVID-19 vaccination of pregnant people likely halted a spike in the preterm birth rate that began at the start of the pandemic, suggests an analysis of State of California health data funded in part by the National Institutes of Health. The authors conclude that their findings underscore the need for pregnant people to keep current on COVID-19 vaccination as a hedge against future viral mutations that may lead to outbreaks.

NIH-supported researchers create single-cell atlas of the placenta during term labor

An atlas revealing the activity of individual placental cells during childbirth offers insight on what happens at the maternal-fetal interface during term labor, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The atlas provides a single-cell analysis of the human placenta and its surrounding membranes and is the first to use this method to understand the communication that occurs between maternal and fetal cells during the process of labor. Studying these processes aids understanding of typical labor and delivery at term, as well as preterm labor and delivery, which occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy and is a leading cause of infant death and long-term disability.

NICHD 2023 research advances

Among our 2023 accomplishments were a successful test of an antibiotic to reduce the risk of maternal sepsis and death after birth in low- and middle-income countries, improvement in the care of newborns exposed to opioids during pregnancy, a study revealing how exposure to chemicals used in food packaging may influence the growth of fibroids during pregnancy, and development of a zebrafish model that provides insight into how the brain acquires essential fatty acids.

Questionnaire could identify emotional responses leading to PTSD after childbirth

A questionnaire that detects strong emotional responses to a traumatic birth experience could identify new mothers most at risk for later developing childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. A high score on the questionnaire correctly identified 88% of the new mothers who later scored high on a questionnaire identifying those with childbirth-related PTSD. The findings could lead to faster identification of PTSD among new mothers, an under-diagnosed condition that increases the risk for depression and anxiety and interferes with mother and child bonding.

Altered fluid channels in the brain may be linked to diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder

Scans that chart the distribution of fluid within the brain during infancy could predict the later development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and the risk for developing ASD-related sleep problems, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

NIH-funded researchers link genetic variants to malformations in stillborn infants

Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have linked a series of malformations in stillborn infants to copy number variants—lengths of DNA in which hereditary material is either duplicated or deleted. The findings could lead to ways to predict the risk of stillbirth, provide information for parental counseling, and guide the care of pregnancies.

Selected Funding Opportunities

Requests for Applications, Program Announcements

For links to NICHD funding opportunities, check Active Funding Opportunities and Notices for NICHD.

NICHD’s Data Sharing Resources

  • Tell NIH About It: Draft (Updated) Strategic Plan for Data Science

    NIH’s Office of Data Science Strategy (ODSS) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) to invite public input on its updated Strategic Plan for Data Science (2023-2028). The plan aims to leverage health care and research data for advancing biology, clinical treatments, and diagnostics. It also outlines data sharing activities, federated data infrastructure concepts, and possible artificial intelligence applications. ODSS encourages partners and collaborators, including the scientific community and the public, to provide feedback on goals, strategies, partnership opportunities, emerging research needs, and other relevant topics by March 15, 2024. These voluntary responses should reflect organizational and individual perspectives, as appropriate. You can review the draft plan (PDF, 665 KB) and get additional information through the RFI: NOT-OD-24-037.

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