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October 2011 Newsletter

Program in Perinatal and Pediatric Origins of Disease

The more we learn about chronic and adulthood diseases, the more we realize they have their origins in childhood or even in utero.  This should not be surprising to us. The concept of development magically and suddenly starting at birth and ending at age 18 or 21 is completely arbitrary!  

Michael O’Reilly, Ph.D. and his colleagues study the effects of prematurity on lung function and resistance to infection during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Having been born prematurely changes, for example, the dynamics of maturation of cell type distribution in the lungs later in life.  This, in turn, influences susceptibility to asthma, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.  

As a result of his work in this area, Dr. O’Reilly has just been named Director of our newest team – the Program in Perinatal and Pediatric Origins of Disease. His partners in this new program include Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., whose studies on the effects of prenatal lead exposure on brain development and function later in life are internationally known, and B. Paige Lawrence, Ph.D., who has defined the effects of environmental toxicants on development of the immune system.  The team also includes neonatologists Carl D’Angio, M.D., Gloria Pryhuber, M.D., and Timothy Stevens, M.D., who treat infants born prematurely and have been studying how prematurity reprograms how the lung responds to infections.  

Dr. O’Reilly is also recruiting colleagues from University of Rochester Medical Center and nationally to help define the effects of prematurity on the development of other organs like the eyes and kidneys. This program will ultimately include researchers that span from the bench to the bedside to the community in an effort to make the lives of former preemies and other at risk infants healthier and better!