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    March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter Continues to Fund Research Grants in North and South Carolina

    Jacki Apel, Director of Communications, (803) 403-8523, JApel@marchofdimes.com

    Columbia, S.C., March 12, 2012 —

        For the second consecutive year, the March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter has awarded grants to the following researchers: Xuejun Wen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioengineering, Cell Biology and Anatomy, Clemson University in Charleston; Lakshmi D. Katikaneni, MD, Professor, Department of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston; and Nicolas Buchler, PhD, Assistant Professor, Departments of Biology and Physics, Duke University Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in Durham, North Carolina.

        “We are proud to be investing more than $475,000 through these exciting research grants over a 3 year period,” said Megan Branham, Director of Program Services at the March of Dimes South Carolina Chapter. 

        Over the past seven decades, March of Dimes grantees have achieved a remarkable track record of lifesaving breakthroughs for babies. Thirteen of these researchers have won the Nobel Prize®. Today’s grantees continue to advance the treatment of babies born prematurely or with birth defects, and seek new ways to prevent these serious infant health problems.            

        Dr. Wen, who joined Clemson University in 2003, is seeking to develop a new generation of more effective cochlear implants, electronic hearing devices surgically implanted in the inner ear to help stimulate hearing. One of the most common birth defects, hearing impairment affects about 12,000 babies each year in the United States; which puts them at risk for delayed development of language and communication skills. Many children with severe hearing loss continue to lose nerve cells in the inner ear, a problem that has compromised the effectiveness of cochlear implants in the past. The new implants will contain living cells that continuously deliver nerve-sustaining substances to the inner ear to help prevent nerve cell loss, and potentially improve hearing.

        Grant recipient Dr. Buchler joined Duke University in 2009 and aims to understand how gene networks in certain one-celled organisms learn to predict and adapt to changing environmental conditions. His research could lead to the development of novel drugs that could prevent or treat infections caused by toxoplasmosis (caused by a parasite) or cytomegalovirus. Pregnant women who contract toxoplasmosis or cytomegalovirus infections can pass them on to their baby during pregnancy or delivery. Infected babies may develop life-threatening infections or lasting disabilities, including learning problems, vision and hearing loss.

        Dr. Katikaneni, who joined the Medical University of South Carolina in 1980, is studying the effectiveness of new imaging techniques, such as magnetic resonance imaging, in detecting and determining the severity of brain injuries in newborns of mothers with chorioamnionitis. Chorioamnionitis, a uterine infection 5 to 10 percent of pregnant women develop, is a common cause of premature labor. In some cases, this infection may cause inflammation in the baby’s brain, resulting in brain damage, cerebral palsy and learning problems. Current imaging techniques are inadequate for detecting brain injury in the early stages, which could allow for prompt treatment to prevent further brain damage and improve the outcome for the child.            

        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.

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