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IBR Awarded 3-Year Grant to Study the Effects of Prenatal Folic Acid on Brain Development

OPWDD’s Institute for Basic Research Receives Three-Year Grant to Study the Effects of Prenatal Folic Acid on Brain Development

The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD’s) Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities (IBR) has been selected to receive a three-year grant from the March of Dimes Foundation for research on the effects of excessive dietary folic acid intake during pregnancy on newborn brain development, Commissioner Courtney Burke announced today.

The grant will be used to conduct studies in laboratory mice to determine whether excessive folic acid intake by mothers during pregnancy has any effect on the behavior of their babies. Folic acid can promote heritable changes in gene function that occur without a change in the underlying sequence of the DNA. These changes are responsible for controlling the amounts of genes that are copied from the DNA. The study will evaluate whether too much folic acid causes any undesirable changes in the developing brain, and whether these changes are responsible for abnormal behaviors.

The principal investigator and lead researcher of the project will be Mohammed Junaid, PhD, head of the Structural Neurobiology Laboratory in IBR’s Department of Developmental Biochemistry. Additional coinvestigators, both from IBR, will be Kathryn Chadman, PhD, head of the Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory in the Department of Developmental Neurobiology, and W. Ted Brown, MD, PhD, IBR director and chair of the Department of Human Genetics.

Commissioner Burke said, “This study of the nature and the severity of the effects of prenatal folic acid exposure will have far-reaching public health implications.”

Dr. Brown said, “Through this award, IBR will help determine whether exposure to excess folic acid during early brain development results in autism-type behavioral changes or other neuropsychiatric disorders. This study continues IBR’s commitment to improving methods for identifying the risk for autism spectrum disorders.”

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.