OBGYN Research Developments at MUSC
Guest: Dr. Roger Newman – Obstetrics-Gynecology, MUSC
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – College of Medicine / Dean’s Office, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Roger Newman is Professor of OB/GYN and Vice Chair for Academic Affairs and Women’s Health Research here at MUSC. Dr. Newman, in this podcast, let’s talk about some of the new developments in OB/GYN.
Dr. Roger Newman: I’d be happy to. We’re very excited about research in our department. We’ve really emphasized research in our department for, probably, about the last four to five years. We’ve been excited about some of the directions that some of have faculty has gone in and some of the opportunities that have been presented to us.
In terms of the areas in which we feel like we’re on the cutting edge of research and reproductive medicine, I would mention, first of all, the use of ultrasound, for a variety of purposes. What we’re most interested in right now is using ultrasound to evaluate fetal growth and development in utero. We have a grant from the National Institutes of Health, the National Fetal Growth Study, to allow us to participate in a trial to evaluate what represents normal fetal growth in utero by enrolling women with uncomplicated pregnancies.
Another focus of research in the department that we’re excited about is in the area of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, or as it used to be known, toxemia of pregnancy, complicates, probably, five to ten percent of all pregnancies, particularly women with their first pregnancy. It’s, really, a very significant cause of premature deliveries, as well as morbidity and mortality. Frequently, preeclampsia will be so severe that the mother has to be delivered early. There’s, unfortunately, no treatment for preeclampsia right now, other than delivery.
Dr. Chris Robinson and Dr. Donna Johnson, in our department, have both been involved in research to identify predictors of preeclampsia, using genomic and proteomic techniques, to identify markers in the first trimester. What is the underlying pathophysiology of preeclampsia; why do women develop it? This could serve as a biomarker that may help us identify women at risk for preeclampsia prior to it happening. Dr. Robinson is supported by MUSC through the CTSA program, and he’s been spending about 75 percent of his time involved in research. We’re very excited about where his research career has taken him.
We’re also very interested in the area of environmental health, particularly marine health in the Charleston area, and how that affects reproductive outcomes. MUSC has a very unique and powerful association with the Hollings Marine Laboratory over at Fort Johnson. Investigators over there include researchers from the College of Charleston, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). They have tremendous capabilities and awareness regarding the environmental contaminants that we have in our area.
We’ve been interested in seeing how much penetrance there’s been of those contaminants in pregnancy and the fetus. So, we’ve got a study, that we’re just starting now, to look at selective metals and organic contaminants, and how much of those are in our pregnant moms and their babies, by measuring those things in the cord blood.
Most people are familiar with mercury, which is one of the metals that we’re interested in. But, really, mercury is just kind of he poster boy, and the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things out there, in the environment, that influence pregnancy and reproductive outcomes and we need to know more about them, and we feel that we have a unique opportunity to do that.
You know, one of the other research areas in obstetrics that gets neglected, for obvious reasons, is pharmacology; drugs and pharmacology. Forever, and appropriately so, we’ve always said that we want to minimize the exposure of pregnant women to drugs. Yet, on the other hand, there are a lot of medical conditions in which drug therapy is essential.
There’s a huge gap in our knowledge about the appropriate way to use drugs in pregnancy: does the usual dose of various antihypertensives work the same for pregnant women as they do in non-pregnant women? Well, nobody knows those things, because they’ve never been studied. The NIH has recently put out another call for a proposal for a network of centers that are interested in pharmacology during pregnancy and the development of drugs that are safe for pregnancy; testing drugs that are currently in use and finding the appropriate dosages for drugs.
We’re one of the centers that have applied for that. Dr. Laura Goetzl, in our department, along with Dr. Lindsay DeVane, from the Department of Psychiatry, who is also a very accomplished pharmacologist with an interest in pregnancy, has a very powerful application. We’re hopeful that we’re going to become part of that network, which will then open another door for research in our department.
Dr. Linda Austin: Very exciting. Of course, you’re doing some very interesting work in fetal growth curves that we just talked about in another podcast. Well, thank you so much for telling us about these, really, visionary areas of endeavor in OB/GYN, Dr. Newman.
Dr. Roger Newman: Thank you.
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