Dr. Camilia Martin Awarded R01 to Study the Metabolic Effects of Providing Essential Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids to Preterm Infants

Dr. Camilia Martin, Chief of the Division of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine has been awarded an R01 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for her study, 'Metabolic Mechanisms Induced by Enteral DHA and ARA Supplementation in Preterm Infants.'  The study will focus on the metabolic effects of providing essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Arachidonic Acid (ARA), to preterm infants.

DHA and ARA are vital for brain, eye development, and immune regulation, yet for almost 40 years, enteral supplementation of DHA and ARA to replace lost fetal accretion has failed to translate into long-standing clinical benefit. The failure to understand the metabolism and induced molecular changes of fatty acid supplementation during the postnatal period has led to erroneous assumptions and replacement strategies that are, at best, not clinical beneficial and, at worst, harmful. Dr. Martin's study aims to uncover the metabolic processes and molecular changes that occur when DHA and ARA are given through enteral supplementation to extremely preterm infants from birth to 36 weeks postnatal age.

Dr. Martin and her research team, consisting of neonatal-perinatal medicine and biostatistics/bioinformatics experts at Weill Cornell Medicine and Yale University, will undertake a multi-center, randomized clinical trial involving 280 infants born between 25 0/7 and 29 6/7 weeks of gestation. They hypothesize that the impact of DHA and ARA supplementation on metabolism and biology depends on the infant's developmental stage and health condition.

The study's objectives encompass two main goals: first, to explore how combined DHA and ARA supplementation influences fatty acid metabolism, including the creation of specialized mediators and oxylipins; and second, to determine how this supplementation affects inflammation markers, organ development, and integrity across multiple systems. Successfully achieving these aims will shed light on the regulation of fatty acid metabolism in preterm infants and the broader implications of supplementation on vital biological functions.

The insights gained from this study will facilitate a more informed and safer approach to delivering fatty acids to premature infants, potentially leading to the identification of molecular markers for future clinical trials.

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