Early Growth and Development

Lead Research Organisation: MRC Unit, The Gambia

Abstract

At 2y of age children in low-income countries are both shorter and lighter than those from high-income settings. The period from conception to 24m – now popularly called the ‘first 1000 days’ – has been identified as the ‘optimal window of opportunity’ to intervene to improve growth. Within this theme of research, we aim to understand the mechanisms contributing towards poor growth and development during early-life, conduct early proof-of-concept intervention studies, and generate robust data to guide programmes and policy aimed at optimising healthy growth during this critical period early in life. Our studies will focus on understanding the interaction between early life nutrition and growth, immunity and brain development in infants and young children.

Technical Summary

Over the past decade, a large part of ING’s research has focused on the interaction between nutrition and immunity, driven primarily by a mission to understand in detail how nutrition at critical points during early-life can influence the development of human immunity. More recently, this theme of research has evolved beyond an interest only in the developing immune system to incorporate two other developmental outcomes in infants and young children - growth and brain development. Keeping in line with ING’s mission, we will concentrate on identifying the mechanisms through which nutrition may influence development and hence identify pathways by which nutritional interventions can be effective. This will build on work projects already ongoing at our field station in Keneba, The Gambia and on the evidence emerging from analyses of existing data from the MRC Keneba databases. ING brings to these areas of research an ability to interrogate research questions from the setting of widespread undernutrition and frequent, recurrent infections, coupled with the pronounced effect of seasonality.

Publications


10 25 50
Ahmed S (2014) Arsenic exposure and cell-mediated immunity in pre-school children in rural Bangladesh. in Toxicological sciences : an official journal of the Society of Toxicology
Begus K (2016) Using fNIRS to Study Working Memory of Infants in Rural Africa. in Advances in experimental medicine and biology
Braithwaite V (2013) Intact fibroblast growth factor 23 and fragments in plasma from Gambian children. in Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA
Braithwaite V (2013) Intact fibroblast growth factor-23 in plasma from Gambian children: response to the letter from Smith et al. in Osteoporosis international : a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA
Castelino JM (2014) Seasonal and gestation stage associated differences in aflatoxin exposure in pregnant Gambian women. in Tropical medicine & international health : TM & IH
 
Description BMGF Discovery Expert Group
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
Impact As a member of the BMGF Discovery Expert Group I influence policy regarding global health research policies.
 
Description Chairman - Strategic Advisory Board American Society of Nutrition
Geographic Reach North America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Planning the ASN's future for Vision 2028
 
Description HarvestPlus
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact HarvestPlus works to introduce biofortified crops with a target of reaching 1 billion people.
URL http://www.harvestplus.org/
 
Description INSPIRE
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
 
Description Iron and Malaria Research Review
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in advisory committee
 
Description NIH/NICHD/Gates Technical Working Group
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guidance committee
 
Description U4HK
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact United for Healthy Kids (U4HK) is a brad spectrum initiative aimed at combatting obesity in childhood across many nations.
URL https://www.u4hk.ph/
 
Description United4HealthyKids (U4HK)
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Major influence on obesity-related behaviours
 
Description WHO Advisory Group on Neonatal Vitamin A
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guidance committee
 
Description 5 Gates Grand Challenges Explorations
Amount $100,000 (USD)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States of America
Start 01/2012 
End 01/2013
 
Description Healthy Growth Consortium
Amount $1,100,000 (USD)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States of America
Start 01/2012 
End 01/2016
 
Description INSPIRE: What is Normal Milk? - Sociocultural, Evolutionary, Environmental and Microbial Aspects of Human Milk Composition
Amount $50,000 (USD)
Organisation National Science Foundation (NSF) 
Sector Public
Country United States of America
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2015
 
Description Identification of nutritionally modifiable hormonal and epigenetic drivers of positive and negative growth deviance in rural African fetuses and infants
Amount $679,000 (USD)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States of America
Start 01/2012 
End 12/2015
 
Description Prenatal and early childhood nutritional supplementation and infant and early childhood body composition, growth and development
Amount $69,000 (USD)
Organisation Nestlé Foundation 
Sector Private
Country Switzerland, Swiss Confederation
Start 01/2012 
End 01/2014
 
Description Randomized Controlled Trial in human neonates to determine the effect of vitamin A supplementation on innate and adaptive immune responses
Amount $451,000 (USD)
Organisation World Health Organization (WHO) 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 01/2010 
End 01/2013
 
Description Transitional and Naive CD4 T cells and B cells in Infant Vaccine Responses
Amount $309,000 (USD)
Organisation National Institutes of Health (NIH) 
Sector Public
Country United States of America
Start 01/2012 
End 01/2017
 
Description Understanding mechanisms and identifying biomarkers for the relationship between aflatoxin exposure and child stunting
Amount $152,000 (USD)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States of America
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2016
 
Description Unsolicited approach
Amount $350,000 (USD)
Organisation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States of America
Start 06/2015 
End 06/2017
 
Title Banked DNA 
Description DNA and phenotype data from multiple cohorts in Gambia and Zanzibar. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2008 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Basis of collaborations and publications 
 
Title ENID Platform 
Description The Early Nutrition and Immune Development Study recruits pregnant women throughout West Kiang. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2009 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact THis platform is highly productive in terms of 'add-on' studies. 
 
Title Keneba Biobank 
Description We are collecting DNA and biological samples from 12,000+ individuals in the West Kiang region of Gambia and banking these as the basis of numerous of our research projects 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The materials have already contributed to many research studies and are currently proving to be a very positive influence on drawing new collaborations and research funds to our group. 
 
Title West Kiang DSS 
Description Demographic Surveilance System for West Kiang Region 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Forms the platform for all studies we conduct and creates novel research findings through secondary analyses. 
 
Description Aflatoxin studies 
Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of study site and samples
Collaborator Contribution IARC - epigenetic analysis UoL/QUB - aflatoxin analyses
Impact None yet
Start Year 2011
 
Description Aflatoxin studies 
Organisation Queen's University of Belfast
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of study site and samples
Collaborator Contribution IARC - epigenetic analysis UoL/QUB - aflatoxin analyses
Impact None yet
Start Year 2011
 
Description Aflatoxin studies 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of study site and samples
Collaborator Contribution IARC - epigenetic analysis UoL/QUB - aflatoxin analyses
Impact None yet
Start Year 2011
 
Description Choline and brain function 
Organisation University of North Carolina
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Piloting of EEG methods for assessing brain function for ultimate implementation in choline supplement trial. DNA samples for assessment of variation in one-carbon genes in Gambians.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise and equipment. Genotyping of Gambian DNA samples.
Impact None yet
Start Year 2012
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation Baylor College of Medicine
Country United States of America 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
Country France, French Republic 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation Queen's University of Belfast
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation University of British Columbia (UBC)
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation University of Cambridge
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation University of Leeds
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Epigenetic studies 
Organisation University of North Carolina
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution These partners contribute to a research network at which we are at the centre.
Collaborator Contribution UBC- biomarker analyses BCM - epiallele analyses UNC - food analyses UoC - epigenome profiling IARC - epigenome profiling UoL+QUoB - aflatoxin analysis
Impact Publications and new knowledge. 21203497 22124338 22307237 22267336 23576045
Start Year 2008
 
Description Gambian National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) 
Organisation Government of The Gambia
Department National Nutrition Agency (NaNA) Gambia
Country Gambia, Republic of the 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We support NaNA in numerous ways, mostly related to staff training.
Collaborator Contribution Through quarterly meetings NaNA assist us with advice about Gambian Government priorities in nutrition. They also help facilitate short-term deviations from standard government policy necessary fro certain trials.
Impact The positive and cordial relationships between MRC and NaNA over many years represent a notable output.
 
Description Genetics of growth 
Organisation Early Growth Genetics Consortium (EGG)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Provision of DNA and anthropometric data for up to 3500 individuals. Joint analysis of results.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of gene variation in genes involved in growth and development, including bone health
Impact 19434426 19265514 18852700 21831878 22896641 23202124 23246670
Start Year 2006
 
Description Genetics of growth 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC)
Department MRC Human Nutrition Research Group
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Provision of DNA and anthropometric data for up to 3500 individuals. Joint analysis of results.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of gene variation in genes involved in growth and development, including bone health
Impact 19434426 19265514 18852700 21831878 22896641 23202124 23246670
Start Year 2006
 
Description Genetics of growth 
Organisation School of Clinical Medicine
Department Department of Paediatrics
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of DNA and anthropometric data for up to 3500 individuals. Joint analysis of results.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of gene variation in genes involved in growth and development, including bone health
Impact 19434426 19265514 18852700 21831878 22896641 23202124 23246670
Start Year 2006
 
Description Genetics of growth 
Organisation University of Exeter
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of DNA and anthropometric data for up to 3500 individuals. Joint analysis of results.
Collaborator Contribution Analysis of gene variation in genes involved in growth and development, including bone health
Impact 19434426 19265514 18852700 21831878 22896641 23202124 23246670
Start Year 2006
 
Description Genetics of malnutrition 
Organisation University of Virginia (UVa)
Department Department of Pediatrics
Country United States of America 
Sector Hospitals 
PI Contribution Provision of DNA and anthropometric data on 1500 Gambians
Collaborator Contribution GWAS and ExomeChip genotyping
Impact None yet
Start Year 2011
 
Description Hormonal control of growth 
Organisation University of Colorado
Department University of Colorado (Boulder)
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Detailed studies of hormonal regulation of growth will be performed at MRC Keneba
Collaborator Contribution Robin Bernstein at UC is the PI on the grant funding this research project.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Immunology studies in Bangladesh 
Organisation International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b)
Country Bangladesh, People's Republic of 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We obtained supplementary funding to assess possible immunological sequelae of pre-natal dietary supplementation in the MiniMAT cohort and have completed the data collection.
Collaborator Contribution Access to MiniMAT birth cohort.
Impact 19432828
 
Description NIRS assessment of brain function 
Organisation Birkbeck College
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution New NIRS systems will be piloted in MRC Keneba
Collaborator Contribution Construction and implementation of NIRS instrument
Impact None yet
Start Year 2012
 
Description NIRS assessment of brain function 
Organisation University College London (UCL)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution New NIRS systems will be piloted in MRC Keneba
Collaborator Contribution Construction and implementation of NIRS instrument
Impact None yet
Start Year 2012
 
Description Ontogeny of neonatal immune system 
Organisation Stanford University
Country United States of America 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Provision of PBMCs from the ENID Study.
Collaborator Contribution Ultra-detailed immunotyping of lymphocytes using CYTOF and other methods
Impact None yet
Start Year 2012
 
Description Vitamin A immunology 
Organisation Medical Research Council (MRC)
Department MRC Laboratories, The Gambia
Country Gambia, Republic of the 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have obtained funding for a new neo-natal vitamin A intervention study to test early immune responses.
Collaborator Contribution Expertise, co-supervision of RCT, use of facilities and labs.
Impact In progress - WHO grant obtained.
Start Year 2008
 
Title KEMRes 
Description Keneba Electronic Medical Registration System 
Type Support Tool - For Medical Intervention
Current Stage Of Development Late clinical evaluation
Year Development Stage Completed 2011
Development Status Under active development/distribution
Impact KEMReS forms a vital part of our research patient selection as well as providing improved care fro our patient population. 
 
Description ING website 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact ING now has it's own website, where key news items are posted regularly.

The website is a vital point of information to ING's research activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description MRC Centenary Events @ UCL 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Type Of Presentation Keynote/Invited Speaker
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 500 attendees across a wide range of the public plus other academics

Wider interest and knowledge of MRC activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description MRC Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact MRC Festival is an Annual Showcase of MRC Unit The Gambia's activities
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description MRC UCL Open Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ING participated in the UCL Centenary event, targeted at the general public but also including scientists from other MRC Units and groups in London. ING contribution included a formal lecture by Prof Prentice plus stands and exhibitions highlighting our work in Keneba.

Publicity in local London area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Open Day (Gambia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Open Day in Keneba
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016