Birth Defects Research Center Gets $3.5M From CDC

The Arkansas Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention said Thursday that it received $3.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study how a mother's exposure to medications and diseases like diabetes and obesity may increase her risks for having a baby with birth defects.

The program is housed on the campus of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute. It will receive the money over five years.

The Birth Defects Research and Prevention center is one of six institutions to get new funding. In Arkansas, the money will allow Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, the center's director, and her team to look at a large group of women who had children with and without birth defects.

New mothers who enroll in the study will complete an interview about their exposures before and during pregnancy, giving the scientists information based on their babies' outcomes. They’ll also provide saliva samples for themselves, their infants and the babies' fathers so that biological risk factors may be identified.

"Embarking on this new research opportunity will allow us to identify environmental, lifestyle and biological factors that may increase a woman’s risk for having a baby affected by a birth defect," Hobbs said in a news release. "Birth defects are common, occurring in about one of every 33 babies, costly – both fiscally and emotionally – to society and families, and critical, resulting in frequent hospitalizations and sometimes death."

In addition to diabetes and obesity, the study will look at some common medications women take during pregnancy, including certain antidepressants and antibiotics.

The study will begin enrolling Arkansas woman in mid-2014. Each year through 2017, the researchers aim to enroll 200 women who will be identified through the Arkansas Reproductive Health Monitoring System as having infants with birth defects, as well as 100 control cases.