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Neonatology - Research


The Section of Neonatology faculty are nationally and internationally recognized researchers with a broad range of research interests fostering programmatic areas of excellence.

Our Neonatology faculty have pioneered many critical developments in neonatal care for critically ill newborns and in many cases were the first in the world to use new therapies including:

  • Surfactant replacement for premature babies’ lungs
  • Inhaled Nitric Oxide therapy for pulmonary hypertension
  • Brain cooling for perinatal brain injury
  • Optimal nutritional strategies for low birth weight babies

Focus areas of interest for perinatal/neonatal research include:

  • Fetal and Neonatal Nutrition & Metabolism
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn
  • Pulmonary Vascular Development
  • Worldwide Implementation of Neonatal Resuscitation Program
  • The use of stable isotopes and indirect calorimetry to study glucose, non-glucose carbohydrate, and amino acid utilization in the premature infant
  • Use of nitric oxide in the term and preterm infant and cardiopulmonary adaptation to altitude

Faculty are also involved in basic research at the molecular, cellular, organ and whole animal levels. Areas of excellence include:

  • Research on carbohydrate and amino acid metabolism and on organ blood-flow regulation
  • In vivo studies emphasizing chronically catheterized animals take place at the UCSOM Perinatal Research Center. Areas of research interest include pulmonary vascular development as well as placental, cerebral, hepatic, and muscle metabolism in normal, growth-retarded, and hypoxic fetal lambs
  • Studies requiring stable isotopic analysis are completed in collaboration with a number of investigators on the UCSOM and Colorado State University campuses
  • In vitro studies currently focus on growth-factor regulation and placental development under conditions of placental insufficiency

Perinatal Research Center (PRC)

The Department of Pediatrics Perinatal Research Center (PRC) is the longest standing research and educational program at 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 jointly managed by the Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology. Other primary participating research and educational programs include the Pediatric Heart Lung Center and the Laboratory for Lung Development.

Faculty Research Interests

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 D. Brown studies the basic biology of fetal muscle development and muscle substrate metabolism. Her goal is to optimize body composition and growth in the IUGR fetus and neonate, which will ultimately preempt the complications of IUGR related to low muscle mass. She performs in vivo physiological studies in large animal models, including the use of stable isotopic techniques and GCMS/IRMS analysis to assess whole body and muscle-specific protein metabolism in the fetus. She combines physiological studies with cellular and molecular analyses to understand the mechanisms that link low fetal nutrient supply from placental insufficiency to persistent reductions in muscle growth. She also has translated some of the techniques she uses in the basic science laboratory for use in clinical studies in the NICU, including the use of stable isotopes to measure carbohydrate and protein metabolism in the high-risk neonate. Her long-term goals are to guide the development of nutritional strategies during pregnancy and early development to improve lean mass growth and prevent the development of metabolic diseases in adults born with IUGR.

Dr. Stephanie Chassen’s research interest is in the transport of fatty acids across the placenta during pregnancy, particularly in pregnancies affected by intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Fatty acids are crucial for brain development, and by exploring the cellular mechanisms in the placenta that are responsible for fatty acid transfer to the fetus we hope to better understand how this transfer is altered in IUGR. This information could help tailor perinatal nutritional strategies to improve long-term outcomes in these infants.

Dr. Robert Dietz studies the effects of ischemia on the developing brain thorough improved understanding of sub-acute and long-term outcomes of neuronal physiology. His basic translational research approach uses electrophysiology, behavior, biochemistry, molecular biology, and immunohistochemistry to elucidate mechanisms of neuronal injury after global and focal ischemia to identify potential therapeutic targets for neuronal protection and novel repair strategies.

Dr. Cassidy Delaney’s research goals are to identify novel mechanisms that contribute to pulmonary hypertension in newborns. Her scientific focus is the role of platelet-derived serotonin in the development of pulmonary vascular remodeling and pulmonary hypertension. By exploring novel cellular mechanisms involved in aberrant pulmonary vascular development she hopes to provide the foundation for expansion of available pharmacologic therapies for newborns with respiratory failure complicated by pulmonary hypertension.

Dr. Jed Friedman’s research interest is in the transgenerational mechanisms for obesity and metabolic disease risk from mother to infant in Human and Non-Human Primates. This involves several novel animal models of maternal obesity (transgenic mice, Non-Human Primates), clinical investigation of the Microbiome in the early origins of obesity and Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), and Metabolic/genomic analysis of Umbilical-cord derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Infants of Obese Mothers. ​

Dr. Jason Gien specializes in the management of congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), with a special interest in pulmonary hypertension, chronic lung disease and long-term sequelae of CDH.

Dr. Theresa Grover's interest is in clinical outcomes of infants with severe respiratory failure, specifically infants with severe bronchopulmonary dysplasia and congenital diaphragmatic hernia. In addition, she is interested in utilizing quality improvement methodology to improve the clinical care of newborns and infants requiring intensive care.

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 metabolic disorders, particularly hypoglycemia, and neonatal applications of pulse oximetry to monitor blood oxygenation in newborn infants.

Dr. Sunah Hwang’s research focus is on the transition of care of high risk infants from NICU to home. She has conducted several studies on the prevalence and predictors of parental adherence to health promoting care practices for preterm and term infants, such as safe sleep practices, breastfeeding, and reducing second-hand smoke exposure. Dr. Hwang prioritizes collaborating with investigators across various disciplines and works closely with researchers from public health and clinical arenas to develop implementation and dissemination studies to translate research findings into practice and policy change. Nationally, she has worked with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate outcomes for preterm and term infants through the analysis of the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). At the state level, she has served as a co-principal investigator for a HRSA-funded project that assesses the outcomes of Massachusetts-born infants exposed to maternal substance use, utilizing data from the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and the Pregnancy to Early Life Longitudinal Data System (PELL). In addition, she leads the Massachusetts Neonatal-Perinatal Quality Collaborative on Implementation of Safe Sleep Practices in NICUs across the state.

Dr. M. Douglas Jones, Jr.’s research interest is in graduate medical education.

Dr. Susan Niermeyer focuses on international child health, and neonatal survival in low- and middle-income countries, neonatal resuscitation, and high-altitude physiology including cardiopulmonary adaptation in infants at high altitude, acute mountain sickness in children, and fetal and neonatal origins of chronic mountain sickness. She is the site co-PI for the multicenter Vent First trial of assisted ventilation during delayed umbilical cord clamping for extremely preterm infants.

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. Theresa Powell​ is internationally recognized for her work in determining the molecular mechanisms regulating ion and macronutrient transport in the human placenta and characterizing changes in placental function in association to important pregnancy complications. Currently, the primary focus of Dr. Powell’s research is to better understand how the abnormal metabolic environment of obesity or gestational diabetes in pregnant women affects placental function and the long-term health of her baby. Specifically, Dr. Powell is interested in identifying endocrine signals linking maternal adipose tissue to placental function and fetal growth and developing novel intervention paradigms for improving the maternal metabolic environment and pregnancy outcomes in obese women.

Dr. Regina Reynolds’ research interests include neonatal nutrition, neonatal nutrient metabolism, growth and body composition of the neonate, especially the preterm infant and neonates with congenital heart disease.

Dr. Adam Rosenberg’s research focus is in medical education.

Dr. Paul Rozance is interested in the fetal consequences of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). IUGR results in metabolic and developmental adaptations which set up an individual for long term health problems including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, obesity, and diabetes. His overall goal is to define the mechanisms responsible for these adverse outcomes. His main focus is on the pancreatic beta-cells which secrete insulin (the dominant fetal growth hormone). He also is collaborating in experiments determining the developmental and metabolic consequences of IUGR on fetal lungs, liver, muscle, and large arteries. In conjunction with defining the developmental consequences of IUGR he is testing the ability of fetal interventions to reverse these adverse consequences with the ultimate goal of designing interventions to treat IUGR and improve fetal growth.

Dr. Daniel Satterwhite studies the developmental regulation of cell growth and differentiation, growth factors, oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes, IUGR, and metabolism.

Dr. Danielle Smith's research focuses on improving patient outcomes and safety through system and process evaluation. The current project is optimizing perioperative communication between clinical teams for neonates requiring surgery. In addition, she is participating in multiple clinical collaborative efforts between Children's Hospital Colorado NICU and partnering hospitals to enhance the care of newborns in the region. Two particular areas of interest are care of the late preterm infant and neonatal abstinence syndrome.

Dr. Elizabeth Thilo's research focuses on early adrenal insufficiency in ELBW infants, and the concept of relative adrenal insufficiency in critically ill infants, including the possible beneficial effect of steroid replacement therapy in sepsis syndrome in the term and near-term infant. She is also interested in early newborn discharge for both term and premature infants; noninvasive monitoring techniques, especially pulse oximetry; hyperbilirubinemia and prevention of kernicterus; newborn transition and the effects of altitude; and pain management in the neonate.

Dr. Stephanie Wesolowski’s research goals are to understand how altered nutrient supply programs fetal metabolism and how this increases susceptibility to adult metabolic disease. Her primary research is aimed to determine the effects of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) in a sheep model using integrative approaches in physiology and metabolism combined with novel molecular techniques in cell biology, epigenetics, and metabolomics. Current studies are investigating the mechanisms for the early activation of fetal hepatic glucose production and development of hepatic insulin resistance, specifically the role of reduced glucose versus oxygen supply to the fetus, both key features of placental insufficiency and resulting IUGR. This is important in understanding why IUGR offspring have increased susceptibility to diabetes across their lifespan. She also is involved in collaborative projects investigating the effects of maternal high fat diet and obesity on offspring metabolism on development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Her research program is supported by NIH funding.

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

Dr. Clyde J. Wright's research goals are to understand the signaling pathways that link oxidant and inflammatory stress to abnormal lung development in the premature lung resulting in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). BPD is the most common morbidity affecting premature infants, and increases the risk of long-term respiratory morbidities, neurodevelopmental impairment and death. Therefore, developing therapeutic interventions to prevent BPD remains of utmost importance. Through a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying the innate immune response to stressors encountered in the perinatal period, we hope to uncover therapeutic targets to prevent neonatal lung injury and abnormal development.

Dr. Jeanne Zenge’s research involves the use of telemedicine to improve communication, particularly during the discharge process, and ways to improve education for neonatal resuscitation.​