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
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
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
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
In addition to funding
from the Center for Women’s Health Research, who else is funding the project or
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
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
Young BE, Johnson SL,
Krebs NF. Biological Determinants Linking
Infant Weight Gain with Child Obesity: Current Knowledge and Future
Directions. Advances in Nutrition, 2012;
Please list some of
the recent conferences where you have presented your research or attended.
Conference; Amercian Society of Nutrition Annual Meeting – Amercian Society of
Nutrition: Presentation at the “Lactation: Bioactive Compounds and Other Milk
Constituents” Session. April 2013
Biology and Lactation Program Project Grant Retreat; Invited Oral presentation.
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.
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).