GAPPS to participate in NIH program researching environmental influences on child development

Sept. 26, 2016 – The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children’s, has been selected to contribute to a novel program focused on how environmental factors influence child health and development.

The program, called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO), is part of a seven-year initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). ECHO is supporting multiple studies using existing cohorts (groups of women and children who have already participated in other research studies) to answer questions about the effects of a broad range of environmental factors on child health and development, including physical, chemical, biological, behavioral and social influences.

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, a pediatrician and environmental medicine expert at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is co-Principal Investigator for a team of researchers that received $4.7 million for their project, called PATHWAYS. The project will recruit three pediatric cohorts – including the GAPPS Repository, a biobank of pregnancy specimens and data – to understand how environmental factors during pregnancy have affected children after birth. The GAPPS Repository will distribute specimens including urine, plasma, and placenta samples, as well as medical record abstractions and questionnaires completed by mothers throughout pregnancy. More than 1,100 GAPPS Repository participants will also be recruited for follow up visits to understand the current health of the children.

"Exposures experienced during the prenatal period carry lifelong consequences, yet are poorly understood," Sathyanarayana said. "Our project will measure how environmental and psychosocial stressors during pregnancy affects children later in life, while also helping provide a better understanding of preterm birth and other adverse birth outcomes."

The GAPPS Repository was established in 2009 to provide researchers with well-characterized biospecimens and data collected throughout pregnancy in order to advance and facilitate studies into the fetal origins of disease. To date, the GAPPS Repository has enrolled nearly 2,500 women and has more than 120,000 sample aliquots available.

"The goal of the GAPPS Repository is to enable innovative pregnancy research that otherwise may not occur," said Dr. Craig Rubens. "We’re thrilled that our cohort will be contributing to this important study and helping grow our understanding of healthy pregnancy."