Research on Preventing Complications in Premature Babies Funded by March of Dimes New Jersey Chapter
Sayreville, New Jersey, May 02, 2013
Elena Ezhkova, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, has been awarded a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award funded by the March of Dimes New Jersey Chapter. This $75,000 grant will help Dr. Ezhkova start her independent research project aimed at preventing certain life-threatening complications in babies born very prematurely.
Over the past 75 years, March of Dimes grantees have achieved a remarkable track record of lifesaving breakthroughs for babies. One way the March of Dimes seeks to ensure ongoing progress in improving the health of babies is by encouraging some of the nation’s most promising young scientists, like Dr. Ezhkova, to commit to careers in research aimed at preventing birth defects, prematurity and infant mortality. This is the goal of the Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award program, which the March of Dimes began in 1973. More than 2,000 young researchers have received the award since then. Most have continued research related to the March of Dimes mission, four have been awarded the Nobel Prize® in Physiology or Medicine, and one is the Director of the National Institutes of Health.
Each year, nearly 500,000 babies in this country are born prematurely, over 12,000 here in New Jersey. Babies born very early, before about 34 weeks of pregnancy, lack a fully formed epidermis, the outer layer of skin that serves as a protective barrier between the body and the environment. As a result, these tiny babies are at high risk of life-threatening infections and dehydration. Dr. Ezhkova is seeking to identify genes that regulate the development of the epidermis, as a basis for designing novel treatments to speed development of this skin barrier. If successful, such a treatment could improve the survival of very premature babies.
Dr. Ezhkova received her doctorate in molecular biology from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in 2005. Following this, she did postdoctoral research at The Rockefeller University in New York City. She joined Mt. Sinai in 2011.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all benefit from the March of Dimes lifesaving research and education.
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. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.