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Maternal Traumatic Stress and Child Development: Epigenetic Links


? DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): We are submitting this application to PAR-14-331, Global Brain and Nervous System Disorders Research Across the Lifespan (R21). The broad goal of this application is to build capacity and provide preliminary resources for the development of a research program aimed at understanding the influence of maternal trauma and posttraumatic stress on the development of brain and nervous system disorders on their offspring in South Africa with a focus on epigenetic mechanisms. This proposal is a collaboration between the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South African, the Center for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health (CU-MSPH). The proposed R21 will train South African partners in the bio-behavioral mechanisms, specifically epigenetic processes, via which maternal trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impacts child development and collect preliminary data on such mechanisms in the Drakenstein cohort. The specific aims of this proposal are: 1) To expand capacity of South African collaborators to investigate epigenetic mechanisms underlying the impact of maternal trauma and post-traumatic stress across generations by formal training, regular meetings, professional meetings, an annual scientific symposium, and research experience. The goal of capacity building will be to prepare for the submission of an R01 application; 2) To identify DNAm signatures and associated biological pathways affected by maternal traumatic stress during pregnancy in infant cord blood. 3) To test whether infant cord blood DNAm signatures associated with maternal traumatic stress are correlated with delayed infant emotional development. This project capitalizes on the Drakenstein Child Study, a pregnancy cohort located at the University of Cape Town in South Africa that aims to investigate longitudinally the epidemiology and etiology of childhood pneumonia and the impact on child health by following1000 mother-child pairs through pregnancy and for the first 2 years of life with a planned data collection through age 7. The ultimate goal is the development of a new program of research crucial to the well-being of future generations of South Africans.

Funded by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences through its Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, grant number UL1TR002541.