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Grand Challenges is a family of initiatives fostering innovation to solve key global health and development problems. Each initiative is an experiment in the use of challenges to focus innovation on making an impact. Individual challenges address some of the same problems, but from differing perspectives.

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Challenges: Achieving Healthy Growth
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Parathyroid-Vitamin D Axis Dysregulation in Early-Onset Infant Stunting in Resource-Poor Settings

Daniel Roth, The Hospital for Sick Children (Toronto, Canada)
Nov 15, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Daniel Roth of the Hospital for Sick Kids in Canada and colleagues will test whether endocrine factors cause stunting in early infancy. They will analyze parathyroid hyperactivity in a cohort of infants from Bangladesh, where stunting is estimated to affect almost half of all children under the age of 5. To uncover the mechanisms responsible for this hyperactivity, they will conduct a vitamin D supplementation trial and analyze maternal, cord, and infant plasma specimens for evidence of dysregulation of the parathyroid-vitamin D axis. Their goal is to understand the cause of widespread vitamin D deficiency in the region, which is under-appreciated, and its linkage to early growth retardation.

Enhancing Infant Immunity: Effect of Early Maternal Treatment for Parasitic Infections

Charles King, Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, Ohio, United States)
Nov 9, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Charles King of Case Western Reserve University in the U.S. and his team will study how chronic parasitic infections in pregnant mothers affect infant immunity and childhood development. Using existing and prospective maternal-child cohorts in Kenya they will analyze the effect of parasitic infections, such as schistosomiasis and intestinal helminths, encountered in utero on subsequent infant vaccine responses, and on general growth and development later in childhood. They will also test whether specific anti-parasitic treatment during pregnancy can improve childhood immunity and development.

Postpartum Deworming: Improving Breastfeeding and Optimizing Infant Growth

Theresa Gyorkos, McGill University Health Centre (Montreal, Québec, Canada)
Nov 9, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Theresa Gyorkos of McGill University in Canada and colleagues will investigate whether treating worm infections in lactating women has a beneficial effect on breast milk production and on infant and maternal health. They will conduct a double blind, randomized, controlled trial in Peruvian mothers following in-hospital delivery, and analyze the effect of de-worming on quantity and quality of breast milk, maternal anemia, and infant growth and morbidity, over a 24-month period. Their ultimate aim is to improve the health of both mother and child by informing global policy on maternal postpartum care.

Epigenetic Mechanisms, Stunting and Poor Growth; Targets for Interventions

Peter Gluckman, University of Auckland (Grafton, New Zealand)
Nov 5, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Peter Gluckman of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and colleagues will test whether intrauterine growth retardation and childhood stunting, which are commonly seen in developing countries, are caused by epigenetic changes that can be corrected in pregnancy and infancy by modifying nutrition. Stunting is associated with many negative outcomes including decreased cognitive ability and immune function. Using epigenetic analyses, and clinical and epidemiological approaches in stunted and control children from Jamaica, Ghana and Singapore they will identify underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of stunting that can act as targets for intervention. The long-term goal is to prevent infant stunting and its associated adverse consequences.

Perinatal Treatment of Adrenergic Dysregulation to Correct Skeletal Muscle Metabolism in IUGR Infants

Sean Limesand, University of Arizona (Tucson, Arizona, United States)
Nov 2, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Sean Limesand of the University of Arizona in the U.S., along with co-investigators, will test whether infants with intrauterine growth restriction, caused during gestation by oxygen and nutrient deprivation, could benefit from pharmacological intervention using well-characterized adrenergic drugs to improve skeletal muscle metabolism. Intrauterine growth restriction affects around 24% of babies born in developing countries and leads to perinatal morbidity and mortality. The team will perform intervention studies using the adrenergic drugs in a well-defined sheep model of intrauterine growth restriction, and identify related biomarkers using placental tissue from affected human infants. These studies will increase understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying intrauterine growth restriction and could lead to new treatment options.

Identification of Nutritionally Modifiable Hormonal and Epigenetic Drivers of Positive and Negative Growth Deviance in Rural African Fetuses and Infants

Robin Bernstein, George Washington University (Washington, District of Columbia, United States)
Oct 29, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Robin Bernstein of the George Washington University in the U.S. and colleagues will undertake one of the most detailed longitudinal studies to date to examine the effects of epigenetic and hormonal factors on growth during the first 1000 days of life. Assessment of a variety of parameters, including infectious exposures and hormone levels, as well as epigenome and transcriptome analyses will be collected from the 13th week of gestation through infant and early childhood from a cohort of 200 Gambian children. These extensive data sets will reveal the mechanisms of growth faltering, and will aid in the development of targeted interventions to promote healthy infant growth and development.

Azithromycin Administration to Prevent Growth Faltering in Gambian Infants: Understanding Mechanisms for Public Health Intervention

David Mabey, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (London, United Kingdom)
Jan 1, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

David Mabey of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom and his team will test whether treatment with the broad-spectrum antibiotic azithromycin can prevent growth faltering linked to environmental enteropathy, which is prevalent in young children of developing countries. They will utilize a double blind, randomized, controlled trial of Malawian children aged 1-60 months, and analyze growth over a two year period after a single administration of either the antibiotic or a placebo control. They will also analyze immune responses and composition of the intestinal microbiota to identify the molecular pathways underlying environmental enteropathy. Their aim is to improve growth and development in affected infants in low-income countries.

Understanding Mechanisms and Identifying Biomarkers for the Relationship Between Aflatoxin Exposure and Child Stunting

Yun-Yun Gong, Queen's University Belfast (Belfast, United Kingdom)
Jan 1, 2012
Grand Challenges in Global Health> Achieving Healthy Growth

Yun Yun Gong of Queen’s University Belfast in the United Kingdom and colleagues will identify mechanistic biomarkers of child stunting caused by the dietary contaminant aflatoxin, which is common in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They will determine the mechanism by which aflatoxin inhibits growth in early life using blood samples and growth charts from 300 children in Gambia and analyzing the relationship between aflatoxin exposure and changes in insulin-like growth factor signaling, epigenetic marks, and gene expression. Candidate biomarkers will be validated in an in vitro cell model of human liver, which is the primary target of aflatoxin, and used to drive future intervention strategies, such as hand-sorting food to reduce contamination, for ultimately improving child health.

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is part of the Grand Challenges partnership network. Visit grandchallenges.org to view the map of awarded grants across this network and grant opportunities from partners.