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1.  Placental transfer and concentrations of cadmium, mercury, lead, and selenium in mothers, newborns, and young children 
There is an emerging hypothesis that exposure to cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), lead (Pb), and selenium (Se) in utero and early childhood could have long-term health consequences. However, there are sparse data on early life exposures to these elements in US populations, particularly in urban minority samples. This study measured levels of Cd, Hg, Pb, and Se in 50 paired maternal, umbilical cord, and postnatal blood samples from the Boston Birth Cohort (BBC). Maternal exposure to Cd, Hg, Pb, and Se was 100% detectable in red blood cells (RBCs), and there was a high degree of maternal–fetal transfer of Hg, Pb, and Se. In particular, we found that Hg levels in cord RBCs were 1.5 times higher than those found in the mothers. This study also investigated changes in concentrations of Cd, Hg, Pb, and Se during the first few years of life. We found decreased levels of Hg and Se but elevated Pb levels in early childhood. Finally, this study investigated the association between metal burden and preterm birth and low birthweight. We found significantly higher levels of Hg in maternal and cord plasma and RBCs in preterm or low birthweight births, compared with term or normal birthweight births. In conclusion, this study showed that maternal exposure to these elements was widespread in the BBC, and maternal–fetal transfer was a major source of early life exposure to Hg, Pb, and Se. Our results also suggest that RBCs are better than plasma at reflecting the trans-placental transfer of Hg, Pb, and Se from the mother to the fetus. Our study findings remain to be confirmed in larger studies, and the implications for early screening and interventions of preconception and pregnant mothers and newborns warrant further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4329243  PMID: 24756102
cadmium (Cd); mercury (Hg); lead (Pb) and selenium (Se); maternal–fetal transfer; early life exposure
2.  Distribution and Determinants of Plasma Homocysteine Levels in Rural Chinese Twins across the Lifespan 
Nutrients  2014;6(12):5900-5914.
Plasma homocysteine (Hcy) is a modifiable, independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and is affected by both environmental and genetic factors. This study aimed to describe the gender- and age-specific distribution of Hcy concentration for 1117 subjects aged 10–66 years, a subset of a community-based rural Chinese twin cohort. In addition, we examined environmental and genetic contributions to variances in Hcy concentration by gender and age groups. We found that the distribution pattern for Hcy varied by both age and gender. Males had higher Hcy than females across all ages. Elevated Hcy was found in 43% of male adults and 13% of female adults. Moreover, nearly one fifth of children had elevated Hcy. Genetic factors could explain 52%, 36% and 69% of the variation in Hcy concentration among children, male adults and female adults, respectively. The MTHFR C677T variant was significantly associated with Hcy concentrations. Smokers with the TT genotype had the highest Hcy levels. Overall, our results indicate that elevated Hcy is prevalent in the children and adults in this rural Chinese population. The early identification of elevated Hcy will offer a window of opportunity for the primary prevention of CVD and metabolic syndrome.
PMCID: PMC4277006  PMID: 25529062
homocysteine; Chinese twins; heritability; gender difference; smoking
3.  Genetic determinants in the development of sensitization to environmental allergens in early childhood 
Sensitization to environmental allergens remains one of the strongest risk factors for asthma, and there is likely a genetic basis. We sought to identify genetic determinants for the development of allergic sensitization to environmental allergens, particularly cockroach allergen, in early childhood. A total of 631 children with the information about genotypic data on 895 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 179 candidate genes were selected from an existing dataset (Boston Birth Cohort). Genetic analysis was performed for allergic sensitizations among all subjects and sub-population, Black/African, respectively. Eight SNPs in seven genes showed significant association with allergic sensitization with P < 0.05, including two top SNPs, rs7851969 in JAK2 (P = 0.003) and rs11739089 in CNOT6 (P = 0.008). When analyses were specifically performed for cockroach sensitization, 16 SNPs in 13 genes showed P < 0.05, including five genes with SNPs at P < 0.01 (JAK1, JAK3, IL5RA, FCER1A, and ADAM33). Particularly, haplotype analyses demonstrated that multiple-haplotypes in FCER1A were significantly associated with cockroach sensitization with the strongest association for a 2-marker haplotype (rs6665683T-rs12136904T, P = 0.001). Furthermore, SNP rs6665683 was marginally associated with the levels of cockroach allergen specific IgE. When a similar analysis was performed for house dust mite, four SNPs in three genes (JAK2, MAML1, and NOD1) had P < 0.01. Of these, JAK2 appeared to be an only gene showing association across the sensitizations we analyzed. Some of findings were further validated when analysis was limited to black population. Our study identified several loci that may confer the susceptibility to allergic sensitization, and suggested that sensitization to allergens may depend on their unique loci.
PMCID: PMC4257764  PMID: 25505553
Asthma; allergic sensitization; cockroach sensitization; house dust mites; single nucleotide polymorphisms
4.  The Combined Association of Psychosocial Stress and Chronic Hypertension with Preeclampsia 
American journal of obstetrics and gynecology  2013;209(5):10.1016/j.ajog.2013.07.003.
This study aims to evaluate perceived lifetime stress (LS), perceived stress during pregnancy (PS), chronic hypertension (CH) and their joint association with preeclampsia risk.
This study includes 4,314 women who delivered a singleton live birth at the Boston Medical Center from October 1998 through February 2008. CH is defined as hypertension diagnosed before pregnancy. Information regarding LS and SP was collected by questionnaire. Preeclampsia was diagnosed by clinical criteria.
LS, SP and CH were each associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia (OR(95%CI)=2.1(1.6–2.8) for LS; 1.7(1.3–2.1) for SP; 11.1(8.1–15.4) for CH). Compared with normotensive pregnancy with low LS, both normotensive pregnancy with high LS (2.1(1.5–2.9)) and pregnancy with CH and low LS (10.6(7.5–15.1)) showed an increased risk of preeclampsia, while pregnancy with high LS and CH yielded the highest risk of preeclampsia (21.3(10.3–44.3)). The joint association of SP and CH on preeclampsia was very similar to that of the joint association of LS and CH.
This finding indicates that high psychosocial stress and CH can act in combination to increase the risk of preeclampsia up to 20-fold. This finding underscores the importance of efforts to prevent, screen and manage CH, along with reducing psychosocial stress, particularly among women with CH.
PMCID: PMC3825759  PMID: 23850528
Psychosocial stress; chronic hypertension; combined effect; preeclampsia
5.  Elevated intracranial dopamine impairs the glutamate-nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate pathway in cortical astrocytes in rats with minimal hepatic encephalopathy 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2014;10(3):1215-1224.
In a previous study by our group memory impairment in rats with minimal hepatic encephalopathy (MHE) was associated with the inhibition of the glutamate-nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (Glu-NO-cGMP) pathway due to elevated dopamine (DA). However, the effects of DA on the Glu-NO-cGMP pathway localized in primary cortical astrocytes (PCAs) had not been elucidated in rats with MHE. In the present study, it was identified that when the levels of DA in the cerebral cortex of rats with MHE and high-dose DA (3 mg/kg)-treated rats were increased, the co-localization of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors subunit 1 (NMDAR1), calmodulin (CaM), nitric oxide synthase (nNOS), soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) and cyclic guanine monophosphate (cGMP) with the glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a marker protein of astrocytes, all significantly decreased, in both the MHE and high-dose DA-treated rats (P<0.01). Furthermore, NMDA-induced augmentation of the expression of NMDAR1, CaM, nNOS, sGC and cGMP localized in PCAs was decreased in MHE and DA-treated rats, as compared with the controls. Chronic exposure of cultured cerebral cortex PCAs to DA treatment induced a dose-dependent decrease in the concentration of intracellular calcium, nitrites and nitrates, the formation of cGMP and the expression of NMDAR1, CaM, nNOS and sGC/cGMP. High doses of DA (50 μM) significantly reduced NMDA-induced augmentation of the formation of cGMP and the contents of NMDAR1, CaM, nNOS, sGC and cGMP (P<0.01). These results suggest that the suppression of DA on the Glu-NO-cGMP pathway localized in PCAs contributes to memory impairment in rats with MHE.
PMCID: PMC4121426  PMID: 25059564
dopamine; primary cortical astrocytes; glutamate-nitric oxide-cyclic guanosine monophosphate; minimal hepatic encephalopathy
6.  Impact of Ketamine on Learning and Memory Function, Neuronal Apoptosis and Its Potential Association with miR-214 and PTEN in Adolescent Rats 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e99855.
Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, is used as a general pediatric anesthetic and anti-depressive drug. Recent studies suggest that ketamine enhances neuronal apoptosis in developing rats. The goal of this study is to explore whether ketamine could result in learning and memory impairment and neurodegeneration in adolescent rats, and if so, whether the effects of ketamine are associated with miR-214 and PTEN expression. Fifty-day-old SD rats were randomly divided into three groups receiving ketamine at 30, or 80 mg/kg, i.p. or saline for seven consecutive days. Twenty-four hours after the last treatment, learning and memory function were tested by the Morris water maze. The rats were then decapitated, and the brains were isolated for detection of neuronal apoptosis and protein PTEN expression by TUNEL and immunohistochemistry respectively. Expression levels of the miR-214 and PTEN in the hippocampus were measured by qRT-PCR and western blot analysis respectively. Ketamine administered to the adolescent rats at a dose of 80 mg/kg rather than the lower dose of 30 mg/kg caused learning and memory impairment, increased the number of apoptotic cells in the hippocampal CA1 region, cerebral cortex and subcortical region, decreased the miR-214 levels and increased PTEN protein expression in hippocampus. The results suggest that ketamine at a dose of 80 mg/kg in the adolescent rats is able to induce the learning and memory impairment and neurodegeneration, in which the down-regulation of miR-214 and high expression of PTEN protein may be involved.
PMCID: PMC4051782  PMID: 24914689
7.  Prepregnancy body mass index and risk of preterm birth: association heterogeneity by preterm subgroups 
To evaluate the association between prepregnancy body mass index (BMI) is associated with early vs. late and medically-induced vs. spontaneous preterm birth (PTB) subtypes.
Using data from the Boston Birth Cohort, we examined associations of prepregnancy BMI with 189 early (<34 completed weeks) and 277 late (34–36 completed weeks) medically-induced PTBs and 320 early and 610 late spontaneous PTBs vs. 3281 term births (37–44 weeks) in multinomial regression. To assess for mediation by important pregnancy complications, we performed sequential models with and without hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, chorioamnionitis, and gestational diabetes.
Prevalence of prepregnancy obesity (BMI ≥ 30.0 kg/m2) was 28% among mothers with medically-induced PTBs, 18% among mothers with spontaneous PTBs, and 18% among mothers with term births (p = <0.001). After adjustment for demographic and known risk factors for PTB, prepregnancy obesity was associated with higher odds of both early [OR 1.78 (1.19, 2.66)] and late [OR 1.49 (1.09, 2.04)] medically-induced PTB. These effect estimates were attenuated with inclusion of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes. For spontaneous deliveries, prepregnancy obesity was associated with decreased odds of PTB (0.76 [0.58, 0.98]) and underweight was nearly associated with increased odds of PTB (1.46 [0.99, 2.16]).
Prepregnancy obesity is associated with higher risk of medically-induced, but not spontaneous PTB. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes appear to partially explain the association between prepregnancy obesity and early and late medically-induced PTB.
PMCID: PMC4022544  PMID: 24779674
Maternal obesity; Prepregnancy BMI; Medically-induced preterm birth; Spontaneous preterm birth; Late preterm birth
8.  The Longitudinal Trajectory of Vitamin D Status from Birth to Early Childhood on the Development of Food Sensitization 
Pediatric research  2013;74(3):321-326.
Increasing evidence supports the immunomodulatory effect of vitamin D on allergic diseases. The combined role of prenatal and postnatal vitamin D status in the development of food sensitization (FS) and food allergy remains under-studied.
460 children in the Boston Birth Cohort had plasma 25(OH)D measured at birth and early childhood, and were genotyped for rs2243250 (C-590T) in the IL4 gene. We defined FS as specific IgE ≥0.35kUA/L to any of eight common food allergens; and persistently low vitamin D status as cord blood 25(OH)D <11ng/ml and postnatal 25(OH)D <30ng/ml.
We observed a moderate correlation between cord blood 25(OH)D at birth and venous blood 25(OH)D measured at 2–3 years (r=0.63), but a weak correlation at <1 year (r=0.28). There was no association between low vitamin D status and FS at any single time point alone. However, in combination, persistence of low vitamin D status at birth and early childhood increased the risk of FS (OR=2.03, 95%CI:1.02–4.04), particularly among children carrying the C allele of rs2243250 (OR=3.23, 95%CI:1.37–7.60).
Prenatal and early postnatal vitamin D levels, along with individual genetic susceptibility, should be considered in assessing the role of vitamin D in the development of FS and food allergy.
PMCID: PMC3773018  PMID: 23797532
9.  IgE but not IgG4 Antibodies to Ara h 2 Distinguish Peanut Allergy from Asymptomatic Peanut Sensitization 
Allergy  2012;67(12):1538-1546.
There are no available clinical tests that can accurately predict peanut allergy (PA) and/or anaphylaxis. This study is aimed at evaluating whether the component-resolved diagnostic (CRD) IgE and IgG4 tests can 1) distinguish PA from asymptomatic peanut sensitization; and 2) differentiate anaphylactic vs. non-anaphylactic PA.
This study included 20 non-atopic controls, 58 asymptomatically peanut-sensitized children, 55 non-anaphylactic and 53 anaphylactic PA cases from the Chicago Food Allergy Study. IgE and IgG4 to 103 allergens were measured using the ImmunoCAP ISAC technology, and were compared among each group of children. The random forest test was applied to estimate each allergen’s ability to predict PA and/or peanut anaphylaxis.
PA cases (with or without anaphylaxis) had significantly higher IgE reactivity to Ara h 1–3 (peanut allergens) and Gly m 5–6 (soy allergens) than asymptomatically-sensitized children (p<0.00001). Similar but more modest relationships were found for IgG4 to Ara h 2 (p<0.01). IgE to Ara h 2 was the major contributor to accurate discrimination between PA and asymptomatic sensitization. With an optimal cutoff point of 0.65 ISU-E, it conferred 99.1% sensitivity, 98.3% specificity, and a 1.2% misclassification rate in the prediction of PA, which represented a higher discriminative accuracy than IgE to whole peanut extract (p=0.008). However, none of the IgE and/or IgG4 tests could significantly differentiate peanut anaphylaxis from non-anaphylactic PA.
IgE to Ara h 2 can efficiently differentiate clinical PA from asymptomatic peanut sensitization, which may represent a major step forward in the diagnosis of PA.
PMCID: PMC3499645  PMID: 23094689
Ara h 2; Component-resolved diagnostics; Diagnostic performance; Peanut allergy; Peanut anaphylaxis
10.  Placental Weight Mediates the Effects of Prenatal Factors on Fetal Growth: the Extent Differs by Preterm Status 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2013;21(3):10.1002/oby.20254.
Elevated pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI), excessive gestational weight gain (GWG), and gestational diabetes (GDM) are known determinants of fetal growth. The role of placental weight is unclear. We aimed to examine the extent to which placental weight mediates the associations of pre-pregnancy BMI, GWG, and GDM with birthweight-for-gestational age, and whether the relationships differ by preterm status. We examined 1035 mother-infant pairs at birth from the Boston Birth Cohort. Data were collected by questionnaire and clinical measures. Placentas were weighed without membranes or umbilical cords. We performed sequential models excluding and including placental weight, stratified by preterm status. We found that 21% of mothers were obese, 42% had excessive GWG, and 5% had GDM. 41% were preterm. Among term births, after adjustment for sex, gestational age, maternal age, race, parity, education, smoking and stress during pregnancy, birthweight-for-gestational age z-score was 0.55 (0.30, 0.80) units higher for pre-pregnancy obesity vs. normal weight. It was 0.34 (0.13, 0.55) higher for excessive vs. adequate GWG, 0.67 (0.24, 1.10) for GDM vs. no DM, with additional adjustment for pre-pregnancy BMI. Adding placental weight to the models attenuated the estimates for pre-pregnancy obesity by 20%, excessive GWG by 32%, and GDM by 21%. Among preterm infants, GDM was associated with 0.67 (0.34, 1.00) higher birthweight-for-gestational age z-score, but pre-pregnancy obesity and excessive GWG were not. Attenuation by placental weight was 36% for GDM. These results suggest that placental weight partially mediates the effects of pre-pregnancy obesity, GDM and excessive GWG on fetal growth among term infants.
PMCID: PMC3418379  PMID: 23592670
pre-pregnancy BMI; gestational weight gain; gestational diabetes; placental weight; fetal growth; birth weight z-score
11.  Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Phenotypic Components of Metabolic Syndrome: A Population-based Twin Study 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2009;17(8):1581-1587.
The increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MS) poses a serious public health problem worldwide. Effective prevention and intervention require improved understanding of the factors that contribute to MS. We analyzed data on a large twin cohort to estimate genetic and environmental contributions to MS and to major MS components and their inter-correlations: waist circumference, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose, triglycerides, and high density lipoprotein cholesterol. We applied structural equation modeling to determine genetic and environmental structure of MS and its major components, using 1,617 adult female twin pairs recruited from rural China. The heritability estimate for MS was 0.42 (95% CI: 0.00–0.83) in this sample with low MS prevalence (4.4%). For MS components, heritability estimates were statistically significant and ranged from 0.13 to 0.64 highest for WC, followed by TG, SBP, DBP, HDL-C, and FPG. HDL-C was mainly influenced by common environmental factors (0.62, 95%CI: 0.58–0.62), while the other five MS components were largely influenced by unique environmental factors (0.32–0.44). Bivariate Cholesky decomposition analysis indicated that the clinical clustering of MS components may be explained by shared genetic and/or environmental factors. Our study underscores the importance of examining MS components as inter-correlated traits, and to carefully consider environmental and genetic factors in studying MS etiology.
PMCID: PMC3766632  PMID: 19407809
metabolic syndrome; twin study; heritability; Chinese
12.  Serum Folate and DDT Isomers and Metabolites Are Inversely Associated in Chinese Women: A Cross-Sectional Analysis 
Vitamin nutritional status may influence some xenobiotic metabolism or vice versa.
This analysis examines the relationship between B-vitamin concentrations and 1,1-dichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethylene (DDT) isomers and metabolites in healthy women. Serum pp′DDT, pp′DDE, pp′DDD, op′DDT, op′DDE, and serum folate, cysteine, and vitamins B6 and B12 were measured in 296 nonsmoking female textile workers (21–34 yr) in Anhui, China. Mean (SD) age and body mass index of this cohort were 24.9 (1.5) y and 19.7 (2.0) kg/m2, respectively.
Median pp′DDT, pp′DDE, pp′DDD, op′DDT, and op′DDE were 1.5, 29.2, 0.22, 0.17, and 0.09 ng/g, respectively. Median folate and cysteine were 9.2 and 200.0 nmol/L, respectively. Folate was significantly inversely associated with pp′DDT and pp′DDE: β (95% confidence interval [CI]) = −0.23 (−0.39, −0.07) and −0.20 (−0.36, −0.05), respectively, and it was marginally associated with pp′DDD. Cysteine was significantly inversely associated with pp′DDT, β (95% CI) = −0.69 (−1.00, −0.37); pp′DDE, β (95% CI) = −0.32 (−0.62, −0.02); pp′DDD, β (95% CI) = −0.31 (−0.59, −0.03); and op′DDT, β (95% CI) = −0.35 (−0.68, −0.02).
Folate and cysteine are independently inversely associated with DDT isomers, adjusting for vitamins B6 and B12, age, and body mass index. These nutrients may play a role in DDT metabolism; however, it is also possible that DDT may exert a negative impact on folate and cysteine levels. Longitudinal studies are needed to ascertain the direction of this association.
PMCID: PMC3763738  PMID: 20368376
DDT isomers/metabolites; folate; cysteine; vitamin B6; vitamin B12
13.  Early Life Precursors, Epigenetics, and the Development of Food Allergy1 
Seminars in immunopathology  2012;34(5):655-669.
Food allergy (FA), a major clinical and public health concern worldwide, is caused by a complex interplay of environmental exposures, genetic variants, gene-environment interactions, and epigenetic alterations. This review summarizes recent advances surrounding these key factors, with a particular focus on the potential role of epigenetics in the development of FA. Epidemiologic studies have reported a number of non-genetic factors that may influence the risk of FA, such as timing of food introduction and feeding pattern, diet/nutrition, exposure to environmental tobacco smoking, prematurity and low birthweight, microbial exposure, and race/ethnicity. Current studies on the genetics of FA are mainly conducted using candidate gene approaches, which have linked more than 10 genes to the genetic susceptibility of FA. Studies on gene-environment interactions of FA are very limited. Epigenetic alteration has been proposed as one of the mechanisms to mediate the influence of early-life environmental exposures and gene-environment interactions on the development of diseases later in life. The role of epigenetics in the regulation of the immune system and the epigenetic effects of some FA-associated environmental exposures are discussed in this review. There is a particular lack of large-scale prospective birth cohort studies that simultaneously assess the inter-relationships of early life exposures, genetic susceptibility, epigenomic alterations and the development of FA. The identification of these key factors and their independent and joint contributions to FA will allow us to gain important insight into the biological mechanisms by which environmental exposures and genetic susceptibility affect the risk of FA, and will provide essential information to develop more effective new paradigms in the diagnosis, prevention and management of FA.
PMCID: PMC3439840  PMID: 22777545
Genetics; Environmental Exposure; Epigenetics; Food allergy
14.  Maternal Smoking during Pregnancy, Prematurity and Recurrent Wheezing in Early Childhood 
Pediatric pulmonology  2012;47(7):666-673.
Prenatal maternal smoking and prematurity independently affect wheezing and asthma in childhood.
We sought to evaluate the interactive effects of maternal smoking and prematurity upon the development of early childhood wheezing.
We evaluated 1448 children with smoke exposure data from a prospective urban birth cohort in Boston. Maternal antenatal and postnatal exposure was determined from standardized questionnaires. Gestational age was assessed by the first day of the last menstrual period and early prenatal ultrasound (preterm<37 weeks gestation). Wheezing episodes were determined from medical record extraction of well and ill/unscheduled visits. The primary outcome was recurrent wheezing, defined as ≥ 4 episodes of physician documented wheezing. Logistic regression models and zero inflated negative binomial regression (for number of episodes of wheeze) assessed the independent and joint association of prematurity and maternal antenatal smoking on recurrent wheeze, controlling for relevant covariates.
In the cohort, 90 (6%) children had recurrent wheezing, 147 (10%) were exposed to in utero maternal smoke and 419 (29%) were premature. Prematurity (odds ratio [OR] 2.0; 95% CI, 1.3-3.1) was associated with an increased risk of recurrent wheezing, but in utero maternal smoking was not (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.5-2.4). Jointly, maternal smoke exposure and prematurity caused an increased risk of recurrent wheezing (OR 3.8, 95% CI 1.8-8.0). There was an interaction between prematurity and maternal smoking upon episodes of wheezing (p=0.049).
We demonstrated an interaction between maternal smoking during pregnancy and prematurity on childhood wheezing in this urban, multiethnic birth cohort.
PMCID: PMC3756665  PMID: 22290763
Smoking; Prematurity; Wheeze
15.  Gestational Diabetes, Atopic Dermatitis and Allergen Sensitization in Early Childhood 
The relationship between the prenatal environment, maternal-fetal interaction, and allergic disease in the offspring remains understudied.
We sought to determine whether gestational diabetes modifies the risk of early childhood atopic manifestations including atopic dermatitis and allergen sensitization.
This study includes 680 children from the Boston Birth Cohort. Mother-child dyads were recruited at birth and followed prospectively to a mean age of 3.2±2.3 years with study visits aligned with the pediatric primary care schedule. The primary outcomes were physician diagnosed atopic dermatitis on standardized medical record abstraction and allergen sensitization based on Immunocap to 7 common foods and 5 common aeroallergens (sIgE≥0.10 kUA/L, Phadia). Gestational diabetes was determined by standardized medical record review. Logistic regression analysis, stratified by term/preterm status, evaluated the association of gestational diabetes with atopic dermatitis and allergen sensitization respectively, controlling for maternal pre-pregnancy BMI, fetal growth, and pertinent covariates.
Of the 680 children, 488 were term and 192 were preterm (<37 weeks gestation). Overall, 4.9% of the mothers developed gestational diabetes. Among the 680 children, 34.4% developed atopic dermatitis and 51% developed allergen sensitization. In term births, gestational diabetes was significantly associated with atopic dermatitis (OR, 95%CI=7.2, 1.5-34.5) and allergen sensitization (OR, 95%CI=5.7, 1.2-28.0). Adjusting for fetal growth had little effect. The association with sensitization was driven primarily by food sensitization (OR, 95%CI=8.3, 1.6-43.3). The above associations were not observed in preterm births.
In term births, gestational diabetes increased the risk of atopic dermatitis and early childhood allergen sensitization, independent of maternal pre-pregnancy BMI and fetal growth.
PMCID: PMC3756674  PMID: 19733904
atopic dermatitis; eczema; food allergen sensitization; gestational diabetes
16.  Gender-Specific Association of Sleep Duration with Blood Pressure in Rural Chinese Adults 
Sleep medicine  2011;12(7):693-699.
There are limited data about the role of gender on the relationship between sleep duration and blood pressure (BP) from rural populations.
We conducted a cross-sectional rural population-based study. This report includes 1,033 men and 783 women aged 18–65 years from a cohort of twins enrolled in Anhui, China, between 2005 and 2008. Sleep duration was derived from typical bedtime, wake-up time, and sleep latency as reported on a standard sleep questionnaire. Primary outcomes included measured systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP). High blood pressure (HBP) was defined as SBP≥130 mmHg, DBP ≥85 mmHg, or physician diagnosed hypertension. Linear and logistic regression models were used to assess gender-specific associations between sleep duration and BP or HBP, respectively, with adjustment for known risk factors including adiposity and sleep-related disorder risk from the questionnaires. Generalized estimating equations were used to account for intra-twin pair correlations.
Compared with those sleeping 7 to less than 9 hours, women sleeping <7 hours had a higher risk of HBP (odds ratios [ORs] 3.0, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.4–6.6); men sleeping ≥9 hours had a higher risk of HBP (ORs=1.5, 95%CI: 1.1–2.2).
Among rural Chinese adults, a gender-specific association of sleep duration with BP exists such that HBP is associated with short sleep duration in women and long sleep duration in men. Longitudinal studies are needed to further examine the temporal relationship and biological mechanisms underlying sleep duration and BP in this population. Our findings underscore the potential importance of appropriate sleep duration for optimal blood pressure.
PMCID: PMC3755492  PMID: 21764369
sleep duration; high blood pressure; gender difference; rural Chinese
17.  Cord Blood 8-Isoprostane in the Preterm Infant 
Early Human Development  2012;88(8):683-689.
Cord blood 8-isoprostane (8-IP) is a marker of lipid peroxidation in the peripartum period. The independent association with degree of prematurity is not well-described.
To identify patterns of lipid peroxidation among early, moderate and late preterm infants, and to understand how cord blood 8-IP varies with gestational age (GA) and related covariates.
Study Design
Mother-infant pairs from 237 preterm births were studied as part of a longitudinal birth cohort study. GA subgroups were defined as extremely (≤28w), moderately (29-33w), and late (34-36w) preterm. Cord blood 8-IP was measured using EIA. Elevated 8-IP (4th quartile) was the primary outcome for multivariate logistic regression models, which were adjusted for maternal age/race, multiple gestation and infant gender, as well as other relevant covariates.
Elevated 8-IP was associated with extremely preterm birth (OR=4.31; 95% CI=1.90, 9.76), and was inversely associated with increasing GA (OR=0.88; 95% CI=0.80, 0.97). Elevated 8-IP was also associated with decreasing birth weight (BW), clinical chorioamnionitis, fetal inflammatory response of the placenta (FIR), and signs of perinatal depression. The GA on 8-IP association appeared to be modified by several maternal disease and fetal-infant factors. Lastly, the indirect associations between log-transformed 8-IP, GA and BW appeared to be most prominent for GA<30w and for BW<2000 grams.
Lipid peroxidation in preterm birth, and the relative influence of accompanying peripartum factors, varies according to degree of prematurity. These findings have important implications for the developmental regulation of antioxidant defense and its impact on neonatal outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3380152  PMID: 22425039
premature infant; low birth weight; oxidant stress; cord blood; placenta
18.  Methylation and aberrant expression of the Wnt antagonist secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 in bladder cancer 
Oncology Letters  2012;4(2):334-338.
The aims of this study were to determine the methylation and expression status of secreted Frizzled-related protein 1 (SFRP1) in bladder cancer, to explore the mechanisms involved and to study the role of SFRP1 in the pathogenesis of bladder cancer. SFRP1 mRNA was detected by reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR). The DNA methylation status was determined by methylation-specific PCR and protein was detected using western blotting. The results of the present study demonstrated that SFRP1 was methylated in the bladder cancer cell lines T24 and 5637, but not in SCaBER cells. After treating T24 and 5637 cells with a demethylating agent, the cells expressed SFRP1 mRNA and protein. Among the 45 patients with bladder cancer, methylation of SFRP1 was detected in 28 patients (62.2%). Of the matched cancer-adjacent tissues, 6 (13.3%) were found to have methylated SFRP1. The result is statistically significant (P<0.01). In conclusion, SFRP1 is downregulated in certain bladder cancer patients as a consequence of methylation. SFRP1 methylation may be involved in the pathogenesis of bladder cancer via excessive activation of the Wnt signaling pathway.
PMCID: PMC3402742  PMID: 22844380
secreted Frizzled-related protein 1; methylation; bladder cancers; Wnt signaling pathway
19.  Sleep, School Performance, and a School-Based Intervention among School-Aged Children: A Sleep Series Study in China 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e67928.
Sufficient sleep during childhood is essential to ensure a transition into a healthy adulthood. However, chronic sleep loss continues to increase worldwide. In this context, it is imperative to make sleep a high-priority and take action to promote sleep health among children. The present series of studies aimed to shed light on sleep patterns, on the longitudinal association of sleep with school performance, and on practical intervention strategy for Chinese school-aged children.
Methods and Findings
A serial sleep researches, including a national cross-sectional survey, a prospective cohort study, and a school-based sleep intervention, were conducted in China from November 2005 through December 2009. The national cross-sectional survey was conducted in 8 cities and a random sample of 20,778 children aged 9.0±1.61 years participated in the survey. The five-year prospective cohort study included 612 children aged 6.8±0.31 years. The comparative cross-sectional study (baseline: n = 525, aged 10.80±0.41; post-intervention follow-up: n = 553, aged 10.81±0.33) was undertaken in 6 primary schools in Shanghai. A battery of parent and teacher reported questionnaires were used to collect information on children’s sleep behaviors, school performance, and sociodemographic characteristics. The mean sleep duration was 9.35±0.77 hours. The prevalence of daytime sleepiness was 64.4% (sometimes: 37.50%; frequently: 26.94%). Daytime sleepiness was significantly associated with impaired attention, learning motivation, and particularly, academic achievement. By contrast, short sleep duration only related to impaired academic achievement. After delaying school start time 30 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively, sleep duration correspondingly increased by 15.6 minutes and 22.8 minutes, respectively. Moreover, intervention significantly improved the sleep duration and daytime sleepiness.
Insufficient sleep and daytime sleepiness commonly existed and positively associated with the impairment of school performance, especially academic achievement, among Chinese school-aged children. The effectiveness of delaying school staring time emphasized the benefits of optimal school schedule regulation to children’s sleep health.
PMCID: PMC3707878  PMID: 23874468
20.  Association of Adiposity Trajectories With Insulin Sensitivity and Glycemic Deterioration 
Diabetes Care  2012;35(7):1506-1512.
To evaluate associations between adiposity trajectories over time and insulin sensitivity and glucose deterioration in a Chinese twin cohort.
This study focused on 341 males and 292 females aged 20–50 years at baseline who had physical clinical examinations and oral glucose tolerance test at two time points with an average of 6 years apart. BMI, waist circumference, percent body fat (PBF), and percent trunk fat (PTF) trajectories were classified into five track groups based on age- and sex-specific tertiles at each visit. We calculated the odds of the insulin sensitivity index(0,120) [ISI(0,120)] or glycemic deterioration at follow-up among five defined trajectories (tertilebaseline → tertilefollow-up) using generalized estimate equation models. Additionally, we applied structural equation models to examine genetic and environmental influences on adiposity, adiposity change over time (ACO), ISI(0,120), and the interrelationships among them.
Participants with stable adiposity (BMI, waist circumference, PBF, and PTF) in the highest tertile or shifting to the highest tertile tended to have the lowest ISI(0,120) at follow-up or experience glycemic deterioration. Genetic factors exerted the major influence on adiposity, but environmental factors unique to each twin contributed more strongly to ISI and ACO. Correlations between adiposity/ACO and insulin sensitivity were mainly due to environmental influences.
When adiposity stays or becomes high, insulin sensitivity falls and risk of glycemic deterioration rises. Additionally, we found that genetic factors exerted the major influence on adiposity, while environmental factors played the principal role for ACO and insulin sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC3379613  PMID: 22596174
21.  Individual variation and longitudinal pattern of genome-wide DNA methylation from birth to the first two years of life 
Epigenetics  2012;7(6):594-605.
Prenatal development and early childhood are critical periods for establishing the tissue-specific epigenome, and may have a profound impact on health and disease in later life. However, epigenomic profiles at birth and in early childhood remain largely unexplored. The focus of this report is to examine the individual variation and longitudinal pattern of genome-wide DNA methylation levels from birth through the first two years of life in 105 Black children (59 males and 46 females) enrolled at the Boston Medical Center. We performed epigenomic mapping of cord blood at birth and venous blood samples from the same set of children within the first two years of life using Illumina Infinium Humanmethylation27 BeadChip. We observed a wide range of inter-individual variations in genome-wide methylation at each time point including lower levels at CpG islands, TSS200, 5′UTR and 1st Exon locations, but significantly higher levels in CpG shores, shelves, TSS1500, gene body and 3′UTR. We identified CpG sites with significant intra-individual longitudinal changes in the first two years of life throughout the genome. Specifically, we identified 159 CpG sites in males and 149 CpG sites in females with significant longitudinal changes defined by both statistical significance and magnitude of changes. These significant CpG sites appeared to be located within genes with important biological functions including immunity and inflammation. Further studies are needed to replicate our findings, including analysis by specific cell types, and link those individual variations and longitudinal changes with specific health outcomes in early childhood and later life.
PMCID: PMC3398988  PMID: 22522910
CpG; DIP test; DNA Methylation; empirical bayes; genome-wide; normal mixture
22.  Urine and Serum MicroRNA-1 as Novel Biomarkers for Myocardial Injury in Open-Heart Surgeries with Cardiopulmonary Bypass 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62245.
MicroRNA-1 (miR-1) is a cardio-specific/enriched microRNA. Our recent studies have revealed that serum and urine miR-1 could be a novel sensitive biomarker for acute myocardial infarction. Open-heart surgeries with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) are often accompanied with surgery injury and CPB-associated injury on the hearts. However, the association of miR-1 and these intra-operative and post-operative cardiac injures is unknown. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that urine and serum miR-1 might be a novel biomarker for myocardial injuries in open-heart surgeries with CPB. Serum and urine miR-1 levels in 20 patients with elective mitral valve surgery were measured at pre-surgery, pre-CPB, 60 min post-CBP, and 24h post-CBP. Serum cardiac troponin-I (cTnI) was used as a positive control biomarker for cardiac injury. Compared with these in pre-operative and pre-CPB groups, the levels of miR-1 in serum and urine from patients after open-heart surgeries and CPB were significant increased at all observed time points. A similar pattern of serum cTnI levels and their strong positive correlation with miR-1 levels were identified in these patients. The results suggest that serum and urine miR-1 may be a novel sensitive biomarker for myocardial injury in open-heart surgeries with CPB.
PMCID: PMC3632512  PMID: 23630629
23.  Gene-Vitamin D Interactions on Food Sensitization: A prospective birth cohort study 
Allergy  2011;66(11):1442-1448.
It has been hypothesized that vitamin D deficiency (VDD) contributes to the development of food sensitization (FS) and then food allergy. However, the epidemiological evidence is conflicting. We aim to examine if cord blood VDD is associated with FS and if such association can be modified by genetic variants in a prospective birth cohort.
This study included 649 children who were enrolled at birth and followed from birth onward at the Boston Medical Center. We defined VDD as cord blood 25(OH)D < 11ng/ml, and FS as specific IgE ≥ 0.35kUA/L to any of eight common food allergens in early childhood. We genotyped potentially functional single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 11 genes known to be involved in regulating IgE and 25(OH)D concentrations. Logistic regressions were used to test the effects of VDD on FS individually and jointly with SNPs.
Among the 649 children, 44% had VDD and 37% had FS. When examined alone, VDD was not associated with FS. When examined jointly with SNPs, a significant interaction between IL4 gene polymorphism (rs2243250) and VDD (pinteraction=0.003, pFDR=0.10) was found: VDD increased the risk of FS among children carrying CC/CT genotypes (OR=1.79, 95%CI: 1.15–2.77). Similar but weaker interactions were observed for SNPs in MS4A2 (rs512555), FCER1G (rs2070901), and CYP24A1 (rs2762934). When all four SNPs were simultaneously considered, a strong gene-VDD interaction was evident (pinteraction=9×10−6).
Our data demonstrate that VDD may increase the risk of FS among individuals with certain genotypes, providing evidence of gene-vitamin D interaction on FS.
PMCID: PMC3189275  PMID: 21819409
cord blood plasma 25(OH)D; food sensitization; gene-vitamin D deficiency interaction; SNP
24.  Role of African Ancestry and Gene-Environment Interactions in Predicting Preterm Birth 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2011;118(5):1081-1089.
To estimate whether African ancestry, specific gene polymorphisms, and gene-environment interactions could account for some of the unexplained preterm birth variance within blacks.
We genotyped 1,509 African ancestry informative markers, cytochrome P-450 1A1 (CYP1A1) and glutathione S-transferases Theta 1 (GSTT1) variants in 1,030 self-reported black mothers. We estimated the African ancestral proportion using the ancestry informative markers for all 1,030 self-reported black mothers. We examined the effect of African ancestry and CYP1A1 and GSTT1 smoking interactions on preterm birth cases as a whole and within its subgroups: very preterm birth (gestational age less than 34 weeks); and late preterm birth (gestational age greater than 34 and less than 37 weeks). We applied logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis, separately, to evaluate if African ancestry and CYP1A1- and GSTT1-smoking interactions could make additional contributions to preterm birth beyond epidemiological factors.
We found significant associations of African ancestry with preterm birth (22% vs. 31%, OR=1.11; 95%CI: 1.02–1.20) and very preterm birth (23% vs. 33%, OR=1.17; 95%CI: 1.03–1.33), but not with late preterm birth (22% vs. 29%, OR=1.06; 95%CI: 0.97–1.16). In addition, the ROC curve analysis suggested that African ancestry and CYP1A1- and GSTT1-smoking interactions made substantial contributions to very preterm birth beyond epidemiologic factors.
Our data underscore the importance of simultaneously considering epidemiological factors, African ancestry, specific gene polymorphisms and gene-environment interactions to better understand preterm birth racial disparity and to improve our ability to predict preterm birth, especially very preterm birth.
PMCID: PMC3218119  PMID: 22015876
25.  Race, Ancestry, and Development of Food-Allergen Sensitization in Early Childhood 
Pediatrics  2011;128(4):e821-e829.
We examined whether the risk of food-allergen sensitization varied according to self-identified race or genetic ancestry.
We studied 1104 children (mean age: 2.7 years) from an urban multiethnic birth cohort. Food sensitization was defined as specific immunoglobulin E (sIgE) levels of ≥0.35 kilo–units of allergen (kUA)/L for any of 8 common food allergens. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were used to evaluate the associations of self-identified race and genetic ancestry with food sensitization. Analyses also examined associations with numbers of food sensitizations (0, 1 or 2, and ≥3 foods) and with logarithmically transformed allergen sIgE levels.
In this predominantly minority cohort (60.9% black and 22.5% Hispanic), 35.5% of subjects exhibited food sensitizations. In multivariate models, both self-reported black race (odds ratio [OR]: 2.34 [95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.24–4.44]) and African ancestry (in 10% increments; OR: 1.07 [95% CI: 1.02–1.14]) were associated with food sensitization. Self-reported black race (OR: 3.76 [95% CI: 1.09–12.97]) and African ancestry (OR: 1.19 [95% CI: 1.07–1.32]) were associated with a high number (≥3) of food sensitizations. African ancestry was associated with increased odds of peanut sIgE levels of ≥5 kUA/L (OR: 1.25 [95% CI: 1.01–1.52]). Similar ancestry associations were seen for egg sIgE levels of ≥2 kUA/L (OR: 1.13 [95% CI: 1.01–1.27]) and milk sIgE levels of ≥5 kUA/L (OR: 1.24 [95% CI: 0.94–1.63]), although findings were not significant for milk.
Black children were more likely to be sensitized to food allergens and were sensitized to more foods. African ancestry was associated with peanut sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3182844  PMID: 21890831
food allergy; sensitization; racial disparities; genetic ancestry

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