Newswise — Rutgers School of Public Health instructor, Stephanie Shiau, has been awarded a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health R21 grant to examine the effect of HIV infection and/or exposure during pregnancy on epigenetic patterns in children.

Current research shows that children who have been infected with or exposed to HIV while in their mother’s womb experience a lifetime of health and well-being challenges, including growth and neurodevelopment deficits. However, there is still a limited understanding of how HIV directly impacts a child’s heath at birth as well as throughout life.

By using the $430,439 grant, Shiau will study epigenetic changes in children’s blood, aiming to identify biomarkers that directly reflect how HIV infection and/or exposure may predict a child’s future health as they grow and age.

“Epigenetics offers opportunities to understand the mechanisms by which infection and/or exposure to HIV during pregnancy may affect child growth and development and may allow us to discover potential points of intervention,” said Shiau.

The project will leverage historical data and blood biospecimens available in the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development Data and Specimen Hub from the Mothers and Infants Cohort Study, a prospective epidemiologic cohort of 450 pregnant women with and without HIV and their offspring conducted in New York City between 1985-1991 when antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV was not prevalent.

“Contemporary studies in the modern era of HIV treatment typically cannot separate the effects of HIV from the effects of antiretroviral therapy on epigenetic patterns. This R21 will allow us to understand these independent effects using historical data, and build on our understanding of how HIV impacts health and disease in later life,” added Shiau.

Co-Investigators include Emily Barrett, associate professor and Jaya Satagopan, professor, both in the department of biostatistics and epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health; Carmen Marsit, professor, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University; and Stephen Arpadi, professor, College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University.


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