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March 26, 2016

CHOP scientists find mother's birthweight, blood sugar tied to newborn's size

International collaboration analyzes genes of more than 30,000 healthy women

A trio of researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia recently published the results of an international study that established a link between the weight, blood sugar and blood pressure of a pregnant mother and the birth weight of her newborn child.

Scientists from CHOP's Center For Applied Genomics collaborated with researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Bristol in the U.K. to analyze more than 30,000 healthy women from 18 different gene studies. They concluded that women who were overweight or had high blood glucose during pregnancy give birth to heavier infants, while women with high blood pressure tend to have smaller newborns.

“This study helps to show a cause-and-effect relationship between a mothers’ weight, glucose and blood pressure and her baby’s size,” said Hakon Hakonarson, whose genomics company, neuroFIx Therapeutics, entered a $5 million collaboration with Wayne-based Medgenics last September. “It also helps to inform public health knowledge.”

CHOP's Struan Grant and Jonathan P. Bradfield also contributed to the study, which encompassed researchers from 11 countries under the Early Growth Genetics Consortium.

“This work highlights how leveraging modern genetics can help clarify such relationships,” Grant said.

The next step for researchers will include investigating whether the influence mothers have on their babies' birthweight has lifelong effects on children.

“Further research is necessary before scientists can issue more specific public health recommendations for managing a healthy pregnancy," said Hakonarson.

The complete study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, can be accessed here.

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