Center for Perinatal Research

The Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children’s has a unique, integrative approach to prematurity research that extends before and after birth. In close collaboration with the Section of Neonatology, the mission of faculty in the Center for Perinatal Research is to conduct innovative basic, translational and clinical research focused on prevention of preterm birth and improvement of prematurity-related outcomes.

Principal investigators in the Center for Perinatal Research focus on research aimed at prevention of prematurity and prematurity complications that together achieve the best possible outcomes. Their laboratories use state-of-the-art molecular, basic science and translational approaches to understand the causes, mechanisms and consequences of being born too soon. Several investigators study pregnancy conditions that cause preterm birth such as intrauterine infection; shortened cervix; preterm, premature rupture of the membranes; placental abruption (bleeding); and preeclampsia (a complication of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, proteins in urine and other symptoms and problems). Other laboratories focus on prevention and reduction of complications of prematurity including infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, pulmonary hypertension, neuro-developmental delay and cerebral palsy.

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The Abigail Wexner Research Institute is ranked among the top 10 for NIH funding among free-standing children's hospitals.

Focus on Prematurity

Prematurity is a significant health challenge facing Ohio and part of The Research Institute’s strategic plan because of the following:

  • Ohio rates are high for infant mortality & preterm births
  • Nationwide Children's can effectively integrate perinatal research and clinical programs
  • Nationwide Children’s has one of the largest neonatal care networks in the United States
  • Significant potential exists for local and national educational, government and public agency partnerships
  • Nationwide Children's is positioned to be an international leader in the fight against prematurity

Neonatal Research Network (NRN) 

The Neonatal Research Network (NRN) was founded in 1986 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the National Institutes of Health. The Abigail Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has joined seventeen other premier research centers across the country that comprise the network. By conducting multi-center clinical studies in neonatal medicine, the NRN is focused on improving care and outcomes for premature infants.

Featured Research

Mark Hester, PhD, Receives 2016 Society for Neuroscience Travel Award

Alpha MED Scientific, Inc. announced Mark Hester, PhD, principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, as the first prize recipient of the Travel Award for the 2016 Society of Neuroscience Annual Meeting.

Esophageal function implicated in life threatening experiences in infants

Infants presenting with apparent life threatening events (ALTE) are frequently treated for gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Through utilization of pharyngo-esophageal manometry, respiratory inductance plethysmography, and nasal airflow thermistor methods we were able to observe swallow-respiratory junction interactions in infants presenting with ALTE compared to controls. Findings were that ALTE infants have more frequent and prolonged spontaneous respiratory events most frequently associated with dysfunctional swallow-respiratory junction interactions, not GER. Therefore, treatment of ALTE infants should target the proximal aero-digestive tract, unless objective evidence has proven GER.

Brain Imaging Protocol Identifies Delays in Premature Infants

Until recently, predicting the severity of cognitive, motor and behavioral deficits in infants born prematurely was almost impossible. But physicians may now be able to use a highly reliable 3-D MRI imaging technique—developed by a team led by Nehal Parikh, DO, principal investigator in the Center for Perinatal Research—to identify which infants are most at risk.

USAID-Funded Grant for Study on Preeclampsia Underway

A team led by Dr. Irina Buhimschi, director of the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, went through more than 400 different types of paper before they found the ideal selection that shows accurate results.

Dr. Jadcherla's Research Highlighted at Digestive Diseases Week 2013

Dr. Sudarshan Jadcherla, principal investigator at the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, was one of 20 presenters—the only neonatologist—at this year’s Digestive Diseases Week (DDW) selected to highlight his research in a video interview featured on YouTube.

Heparin-Binding EGF-like Growth Factor (HB-EGF)

Dr. Gail Besner’s primary research began in 1990 with the identification of the growth factor "heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor" (HB-EGF). Dr. Besner works to understand HB-EGF’s ability to protect the intestine from injury.

The long range goal of this research is determine whether or not HB-EGF could be used in therapies to protect and treat intestinal damage in high-risk neonates.

Her studies have shown that HB-EGF’s anti-inflammatory effects and chemical properties play a vital role in the regenerating of intestinal cells after they have been damaged. Lab research has shown that HB-EGF can protect the intestine from damage caused by hemorrhagic shock, blood supply restriction and the disease necrotizing enterocolitis. Necrotizing enterocolitis results in the destruction of the intestine in newborn babies, especially those born prematurely. Clinical studies are on the horizon to further test HB-EGF as a treatment option.

Newborn and Infant Feeding Disorders Program

Dr. Sudarshan Jadcherla’s research focuses on neonatal feeding disorders. His clinical research works to define the mechanisms of feeding failure and airway compromise in developing infants and to pave the way for evidence-based diagnosis and therapeutic intervention particularly in neonatal dysphagia, gastroesophageal reflux disease and chronic lung disease of infancy.

The Neonatal and Infant Feeding Disorders Program at Nationwide Children’s under the direction of Dr. Jadcherla, is the only program in the world taking a multi-organ perspective to understand infant feeding disorders. Read more about feeding disorders.

Small Baby Guidelines

The Small Baby Guidelines (SBGs), developed by the neonatology team at Nationwide Children’s, provide a uniform, interdisciplinary approach to the family-centered care of extremely premature babies.

The guidelines outline care regarding development, nutrition, cardiovascular functioning, infection and other potential health concerns during the first week of these infants’ lives. Guidelines included the following sub-headings.

  • Respiratory

  • Skin

  • Development

  • Cardiovascular

  • PDA

  • Fluids/nutrition

  • Neurological/sedation

  • Infection control and family issues

Evaluation of the SBGs can improve patient outcomes and decrease the length of hospitalization. Infants who were treated using SBGs were discharged an average 13 days earlier than infants who were not treated using a unified approach. The research was published in Acta Paediatrica (2009) and was the first published study that examined this particular patient population while covering all aspects of their care. Learn more about the Small Baby Guidelines.

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