The Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST) (Liaison: Dr. Cathrine Hoyo)
Dr. Hoyo leads a pre-birth cohort study of mothers and children residing in three contiguous counties–Wake (the home of NC State), Durham, and Orange. The overarching goal of the cohort study is to improve understanding of how the environment affects gene expression through epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation and histone modification. She developed a specimen repository with annotated clinic and epidemiologic data from pregnant mothers and their children. Over 2,500 pregnant women were enrolled during their first prenatal clinic (mean gestational age at enrollment was 13 weeks) and questionnaires and peripheral blood were collected for exposure characterization. At delivery, offspring cord blood and maternal blood specimens and parturition data were collected from over 2,000 women and children. This rich resource includes maternal peripheral blood, cord blood, and buccal cell DNA, RNA with appropriate IRB approvals, which CHHE members can access. Recent funding will enable additional data and specimen collection at ages 6 to 12 years, facilitating translation for CHHE investigators. Dr. Collier’s role in the IHSFC is being further leveraged to extend sample collection efforts for NEST, which should deepen inter-institutional involvement in NEST and mechanism-based translational collaborations. To enhance rapid access to data for CHHE researchers, Drs. Hoyo and Mattingly were provided resources via R24ES028531, to develop a web-based platform to make cohort data findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable (FAIR) for CHHE members and others. Dr. Hoyo will also educate CHHE members (including those at ECU) about NEST resources and provide access to clinical data obtained from electronic medical records and Medicaid, as well as NEST samples. As the NEST cohort has matured, CHHE scientists are leveraging NEST data to successfully compete for NIH funding of translational studies