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Center for Women’s Health Research

Center for Womens Health Research
 

Bridget Young, PhD


Please provide a summary of your research and the project overview.

Type 2 diabetic (T2D) women are virtually unstudied in the context of lactation and their infants are at high risk to become obese and develop diabetes later in life. The overarching hypothesis of our work is that maternal T2D has major consequences on breast milk reflecting a combination of increased low-grade inflammation, oxidative stress, and bioactive hormones.  These alterations could contribute to excess infant weight and adiposity gain that predisposes an infant for obesity and metabolic dysfunction later in life. 

We are currently following 20 normal weight, 20 overweight/obese, and 20 T2D women and their infants from birth to 4-months of age.  Longitudinal sampling of human milk, and infant growth and body composition are utilized to address our hypotheses. 

What are the implications for your research? Why is your work important both short term and long term?

By studying both obese and T2D women, we will be able to distinguish whether effects in HM are driven by obesity alone vs. in concert with insulin resistance (ie: T2D).  This will have implications as how to best target future interventions.  Identifying primary components of HM that associate with risky, rapid infant weight gain will provide an ideal avenue for intervention to optimize HM composition and prevent cross-generational transmission of obesity and diabetes. 

Please take the above two questions and answer them as if you are explaining them to a sixth grader.

We are conducting this research study among breastfeeding lean, overweight, and type 2 diabetic mothers and their infants.   We are collecting breast milk samples and measuring how the infants grow over the first 4 months of the infants’ lives.  We are interested in finding out how certain components of breast milk may differ between these different groups of mothers, and how these components may impact how the baby grows.

Our ultimate goal from this research is to identify certain things in breast milk that we can try to tweak in order to minimize the baby’s risk of becoming obese or diabetic later in life.  This work will help us answer if there is certain advice (perhaps about diet, or medications, or supplements) that we can give to breastfeeding Moms to make sure their baby gets the best nutrition possible.

What is the proposed timeframe for your project? Where would you like to see your findings published?

We have finished recruiting our lean and overweight women, and the majority of these women have finished the study.  We plan to complete the study by September 2014.  Currently, we have begun data analyses of the infants that have completed, and are actively analyzing all milk samples collected.  We plan to publish our findings in the top-tier Nutrition and Pediatric journals (ex: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Journal of Pediatrics).

Who else is part of the project team?  Who is your mentor?

This is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary project.  My primary mentor is Dr. Nancy Krebs, MD, MS in the Section of Pediatric Nutrition.  I also work very closely with Dr.  Jed Friedman, PhD in the department of Neonatology and with Dr. Lynn Barbour, MD, MPH from the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.  Dr. Friedman and his lab provides biochemical expertise in metabolism and Dr. Barbour is a respected expert in high-risk pregnancy and treats T2D women at the University Hospital.

In addition to funding from the Center for Women’s Health Research, who else is funding the project or related projects?  

I am currently funded as a postdoctoral trainee in Pediatric Nutrition by a T32 award from the NIH (NIH T32 DK007658-21).  I also received an Early Investigator Award from the Thrasher Research Foundation to pursue this work.  I have also been awarded an Early Career Mentored Pilot Award in Child and Maternal Health from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI).  Finally, this study has received an additional 3 years of funding from the American Diabetes Association to extend follow up on these infants to one year.

If you are able to, please share any recent progress or findings to date.

We have collected an immense amount of data to date and are in the process of analyzing it.  Results will be shortly forthcoming.

What are some of your recent publications?

My 3 most recent publications are:

Krebs NF, Young BE. Complementary Feeding:  Critical Considerations to Optimize Growth, Nutrition, and Feeding Behavior. Current Pediatrics Reports. 2013; 1(4):247-256.

O’Brien KO, Li S, Cao C, Kent T, Young BE, Queenan RA, Pressman EK, Cooper E.  Maternal and Neonatal Vitamin D Status and Regulation of CYP27B1 and CYP24A1 Expression in Human Placental Tissue.  Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.  2013; In Press, June, 2013. (From my doctoral work)

Young BE, Johnson SL, Krebs NF.  Biological Determinants Linking Infant Weight Gain with Child Obesity: Current Knowledge and Future Directions.  Advances in Nutrition, 2012; 3: 675-686.

Please list some of the recent conferences where you have presented your research or attended.

Experimental Biology Conference; Amercian Society of Nutrition Annual Meeting – Amercian Society of Nutrition: Presentation at the “Lactation: Bioactive Compounds and Other Milk Constituents” Session.  April 2013

Mammary Gland Biology and Lactation Program Project Grant Retreat; Invited Oral presentation. May, 2013.

When and how did you become interested in research?

I have been interested in medicine as long as I can remember and planned to go to medical school while in college.  After graduating, I took 2 years to work to decide if I should pursue a traditional career in medicine or a medical research career.  During that time, I worked in a medical research laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.  It was there that I became enamored with the idea that as a researcher, I could potentially positively impact many more lives  through advances in medical research and public health than I ever could over the course of a career as a medical physician.  This is when and why I decided to pursue graduate school and a career in research.

Who has/have been the most influential mentor(s) in your career? Why?

Dr. Kathleen Rasmussen at Cornell University was the Principle Investigator on a training grant that funded a portion of my doctoral research.  Dr. Rasmussen is a respected expert in lactation research and gave me my first introduction to the world of maternal-and-child health research.  Her scientific approach is stellar and something I still strive to emulate.  Her passion for this topic is what initially inspired me to study breastfeeding and lactation, where I have now built a career.

My current mentor, Dr. Nancy Krebs has also been irreplaceable in forming my career path.  Her honest guidance has been a steady compass for me over the past 2 years.  The opportunity to learn from an international expert in infant growth has been invaluable to me.  But perhaps more importantly, she has proven to be an excellent example of a successful woman in science and continues to serve as an ideal role model for my current and future endeavors.

What other grants/funding opportunities are you currently pursuing? 

I am currently pursuing a postdoctoral research award from the National Institutes of Health Center for Child Health and Development (NIH F32 HD078068-01).