March 29, 2023

Mor lab wins $1.14 million to examine fetal effects of exposure to VOCs during pregnancy

The scientific director of the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development has launched a study funded by the National Institutes of Health to examine the impact volatile organic compounds have on early development of the fetal immune system. 

Gil Mor, M.D., Ph.D.

Principal investigator Gil Mor, M.D., Ph.D., will use a three-year, $ 1,140,311 grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on the project, “Impact of benzene-induced MIA on fetal T cell development.”

“Exposure to volatile organic compound, collectively abbreviated as VOCs, during pregnancy, a vulnerable life windows of susceptibility, is an important determinant of maternal-fetal health, with implications for preterm birth, and child sensitivity to infections, asthma and other adverse health outcomes,” Dr. Mor said. “The central theme of this application focuses on deciphering the signaling pathways by which exposure to VOCs during pregnancy have an impact on early development of the fetal immune system.”

The completed study should provide better understanding of the outcomes associated with the impact of VOCs exposure on the development of an appropriate neonatal immune responses.

“Adequate response to infection is the result of a delicate balance between an efficient immune response against pathogens and its quick resolution preventing widespread over-activation. Maternal immune activation due to VOCs will affect this regulatory balance, which are determined during fetal development,” he added.

Dr. Mor is the John M. Malone Jr., M.D., Endowed Chair of Women’s Health Research and Associate Chair for Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The study proposes that inflammation at the maternal fetal interphase due to maternal exposure to VOCs alters the development of the fetal immune system, which results in an aberrant post-natal immune response to respiratory viral infections.

“Our preliminary studies suggest that although the fetus may be protected against microbial infection, the outcome of maternal exposure, protective or deleterious, depends on the nature and the severity of the inflammatory process at maternal/fetal interface. The mechanisms underlying the response of the fetal immune system and how indirect training by the maternal inflammation takes place is unclear and understudied,” Dr. Mor said.

In addition to Dr. Mor, the project team includes Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Jiahui Ding, M.D., Ph.D.; Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology Douglas Ruden, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of Pharmacology Michael Petriello, Ph.D.; and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and of Molecular Medicine and Genetics Marianna Sadagurski, Ph.D.

The number for this National Institutes of Health award is R01HD111146.

Faculty spotlight

Subscribe to Today@Wayne

Direct to your inbox each week

Related articles