A new study at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine will research the health risks during pregnancy for women with both obesity-associated metabolic syndrome (MetS) and substance use disorder.

Led by Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine researchers Usha Murughiyan, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine, (pictured above right) and Subha Arthur, Ph.D., associate professor of clinical and translational sciences, (pictured above left) the project will identify the health complications and modifiable risk factors of women with MetS and substance use disorder to identify interventions that improve maternal health and reduce related pregnancy complications.  

The study will be funded by a $296,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant (3P20GM121299-04S1) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Office of Research on Women’s Health. The researchers will evaluate more than a decade of data from Marshall University’s Translational Science Core Data Warehouse, a research data repository that provides a single, secure, managed release point for human subjects’ data for use in academic research, to identify a unique cohort of women with MetS and substance use disorder. The research team will then use the data to identify maternal complications, define the related socioeconomic demographics and identify modifiable conditions that can be addressed prospectively in a future proposal to improve maternal health.

“Translational research is about using data to identify opportunities for intervention or improvement, meaning it has a very direct application to daily life,” said Murughiyan, who also serves as medical director of the Marshall Clinical Research Center. “The focus of this study is of particular importance to West Virginia and Appalachia as we work to proactively implement interventions to improve the health of pregnant women with metabolic syndrome and substance use disorder.”

MetS is the most common complication of obesity. It consists of abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, hypertension and diabetes that are commonly related to other diseases such as cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and certain cancers. MetS also increases the risk for developing gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and preeclampsia (PE). Likewise, substance use disorder during pregnancy significantly increases risk of maternal syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, HIV, abruptio placenta and psychiatric disorders in the child.

“By analyzing the data in our warehouse, we can determine how different factors of MetS, such as insulin resistance, hypertension and dyslipidemia, individually as well as in combination, impact the risk of maternal morbidity in pregnant women with substance use disorder,” Arthur said. “This approach will allow us to identify the modifiable variables that can be proactively altered to improve health outcomes in pregnant women.”

This project is part of supplemental funding through the Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) Appalachian Center for Cellular transport in Obesity Related Disorders (ACCORD) program. At Marshall University, COBRE ACCORD funds are used to support junior investigators and enhance their ability to independently compete for NIH-funded research grants as well as establish scientific cores to enhance the research infrastructure at Marshall.

From Marshall University News