Tomoko Kaneko-Tarui, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tufts University School of Medicine and Lab Director, Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI), received the TUSM Charlton Award for the full amount of support requested. The grant, which provides funding from 01/01/22 to 12/31/22, is entitled "The MicroRNA Profiles in the Umbilical Cord-derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Born from Obese and Lean Mothers."
The Charlton grant award is dedicated to providing research support to allow faculty at the Tufts University School of Medicine to develop research tools and collect preliminary data that is likely to lead to funding from traditional sources of extramural support such as the NIH, NSF and ACS. To be eligible, applicants must be a TUSM faculty member and within five years of the time of their appointment at the assistant professor level or equivalent at the time of the award.
Dr. Kaneko-Tarui’s research interests include maternal and fetal obesity and nutrition, reproductive endocrinology and infertility, umbilical cord-derived stem cell research, and neonatal salivary genomics and diagnosis.
Read the study abstract below:
Maternal pre-pregnancy overweight and obese status are associated with adverse offspring outcomes. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood but believed to involve epigenetic alterations in the fetus. The aim of this study is to elucidate the effect of maternal obesity on epigenetic regulation in neonates by profiling microRNA in umbilical cord-derived Mesenchymal stem cells (uMSCs). We will leverage uMSCs extracted from umbilical cords collected from 31 participants in our cohort studies. Preliminary data generated from uMSCs established from 10 participants identified 71 miRNAs significantly differentially expressed between offspring of mothers with or without overweight/obesity. Computational miRNA target enrichment analysis and target genes functional enrichment analysis predicted that the differentially expressed miRNAs are associated with the PI3K/AKT pathway, critical for insulin signaling. We propose differentiating skeletal myocytes from uMSC to measure insulin sensitivity and determine the effect of miRNA of interest on uMSC-derived myocytes using miRNA mimics. Additional assays with more overweight and obese patients’ uMSCs are proposed to validate our preliminary findings and robustly assess the effects of maternal obesity on epigenetic regulation in neonates. We expect to demonstrate that miRNAs from uMSCs are potential non-invasive biomarkers of neonatal metabolic health, which may allow for early intervention to prevent future metabolic disease.