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Perinatal Research Center - Research

The Perinatal Research Center (PRC) is the longest standing research and educational program at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus. Faculty who conduct studies at the Center are on the leading edge of research in maternal, placental, and fetal physiology.

The PRC supports the Division of Perinatal Medicine, which is managed by the Section of Neonatology and the Department of Pediatrics. Other primary participating research and educational programs include the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Maternal-Fetal Medicine Program, the Pediatric Heart Lung Center and the Laboratory for Lung Development.

Research at the PRC primarily involves reproductive and developmental physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology. The research is conducted in pregnant sheep, an internationally recognized standard model for studying maternal, placental, and fetal physiology. The principal aims of the research are to better understand the processes involved in fetal growth and development and the mechanisms that regulate such growth and development under normal and pathological conditions. Additionally, the studies of fetal growth provide a greater understanding of how aberrant fetal growth can lead to poor reproductive outcome (such as intrauterine growth restriction), neonatal disease (such as persistent pulmonary hypertension), and adult disorders that have their origins during fetal life (such as obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease). All of the research is supported by nationally competitive grants.

Faculty Research Interests

Dr. Steven Abman is Director of the Pediatric Heart Lung Center (PHLC), and coordinates several clinical and laboratory based research projects on mechanisms that contribute to the development of BPD and pulmonary hypertension in newborns and older children. He is also the founder and Director of the Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Network, which is a multicenter program to develop novel insights into the natural history and treatment of childhood pulmonary hypertension involving centers throughout North America.

Dr. James Barry’s research seeks to better patient outcomes through process and system improvements using qualitative investigational methods in the NICU. Additionally, he seeks to better understand and define methods of education that can increase and improve neonatal resuscitation skills in NICU personnel.

Dr. Laura Brown’s research goals are to improve the muscle growth of the fetus during a pregnancy affected by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The main question she hopes to answer is why muscle fails to grow properly even into adulthood after exposure to IUGR. By exploring the cellular mechanisms that control fetal muscle growth and development in IUGR, we will better understand why there are persistent abnormalities in muscle growth during childhood and adulthood. Furthermore, these findings will guide the development of nutritional strategies during pregnancy and early childhood to improve muscle growth and prevent the development of lifelong diseases.

Dr. Jed Friedman’s research specialization is on the maternal-fetal origins of obesity, ranging from transcription factors involved in energy balance, to mechanisms underlying fatty liver development, to molecular pathways for insulin resistance in humans and non-human primates.

Dr. Jason Gien studies pulmonary hypertension, chronic lung disease, and congenital heart disease.

Dr. Theresa Grover focuses on regulation of fetal and neonatal pulmonary blood flow, mechanisms of pulmonary vascular and alveolar growth, persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, and the role of vascular endothelial growth factor in lung development.

Dr. William Hay, Jr.’s basic research is supported by NIH-funded grants to study various aspects of placental and fetal growth restriction, with specific attention to placental nutrient transfer and metabolism, fetal insulin secretion, and fetal insulin action. His research is aimed at understanding how disturbances in maternal nutrient supply to the placenta and fetus produce adaptations in fetal development that could underlie later life disorders such as obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes. His clinical research through the Children's Hospital Colorado Clinical Translational Research Center focuses on early postnatal intravenous nutrition of the extremely low birth weight infant, aimed at determining the optimal amount and mixture of amino acids and energy supplies to promote early and optimal growth of body weight and composition in preterm infants to prevent postnatal growth restriction. He is also a world expert in neonatal applications of pulse oximetry to monitor blood oxygenation in newborn infants.

Dr. John Kinsella’s research includes clinical studies on the role of inhaled NO and nasal CPAP in prevention of BPD in human preterm infants, as well as clinical studies of sildenafil therapy in term infants with pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Thomas Parker’s scientific focus is on hormonal modulation of the developing fetal pulmonary circulation, the role of endogenous nitric oxide in the developing lung circulation, the myogenic response in the fetal and newborn pulmonary circulation, the role of rho kinase in the modulation of pulmonary vascular tone, and the use of inhaled nitric oxide in treatment of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn.

Dr. Randall Wilkening’s research activities include placental transfer and function; fetal metabolic responses to placental dysfunction; and fetal organ blood flow and metabolism.