Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI)

Catalano Laboratory

Patrick Catalano Patrick Catalano, MD is a Professor and Vice Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine and a Maternal -Fetal Medicine specialist at Tufts University Medical Center. His research is focused on maternal metabolism in women whose pregnancies are complicated by diabetes and obesity. Further he is studying the short and long-term effects on mothers and their children. He has had continuous funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development for the past 30 years.

Research focus

Our early research focused on the longitudinal changes in carbohydrate metabolism in lean and obese women with normal glucose tolerance and gestational diabetes. These publications employed techniques such as hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamps, stable isotopes, body composition and indirect calorimetry. These may be the only studies of the longitudinal changes in carbohydrate metabolism before during and after pregnancy, employing these methodologies. The significance of these findings relates to the fact that early pregnancy has independent effects on maternal glucose and beta cell function. Insulin response in early pregnancy relates to placental development and gene expression. These studies provide the foundation for much of the physiologic metabolic changes during pregnancy found in many of the Obstetrics textbooks.

In a series of experiments we examined the mechanisms related to the increased insulin resistance during and after pregnancy. Based on research in collaboration with basic scientists such as Jacob Friedman PhD, John Kirwan PhD and Sylvie Hauguel-deMouzon PhD, we described defects in post receptor insulin signaling in human muscle and adipose tissue relating to inflammatory cytokines. These studies included longitudinal muscle and adipose tissue biopsies during pregnancy and 1 year postpartum.

Most recently our research has focused on the concept of perinatal programming or developmental origins hypotheses. For many years studies relating to the developmental origins hypothesis focused on mechanisms related to in utero growth restriction. Our group was one of the first to emphasize that the infant of the obese mother was not only at increased risk of metabolic dysfunction and obesity at birth but that the risk extended into early childhood. We were one of the first groups to employ neonatal body composition as a better estimate of fetal growth in contrast to birth weight alone or birth weight for gestational age. Many of the anthropometric models we developed to estimate human maternal and neonatal body composition have been used in various NIH funded multi-site/multi-national studies such as Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) and the Maternal fetal Medicine Units Network (MFMU) gestational diabetes study.

Save for some mild success in decreasing excessive maternal gestational weight gain, there has been little success for lifestyle interventions during pregnancy to decrease maternal morbidities and fetal overgrowth in overweight/obese women. Currently our primary area of research has been the application of lifestyle interventions before pregnancy to avoid excess gestational weight gain and decrease pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes in mothers and fetal overgrowth and adiposity in the offspring. The long-term goal for the Lifestyle Intervention in Preparation for Pregnancy (LIPP) study is to prevent childhood obesity.

For information about participating in the LIPP trial, contact the LIPP study team: 
Dr. Patrick Catalano, Primary Investigator: pcatalano@tuftsmedicalcenter.org or 617-636-4187
Kate Russell, Research Coordinator: krussell5@tuftsmedicalcenter.org or 617-636-9197

Mom and baby

Recruiting study participants now

Attention, new moms! If you’ve given birth in the past 3 months and are planning for another pregnancy in the next one to two years, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial.

Learn more about the study here

Patrick Catalano, MD, Principal Investigator at MIRI, quoted in NYT about new research reporting that diet and exercise in second trimester may help overweight pregnant women avoid excess weight gain.

Learn more about this research