(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Jean Brender, Ph.D., R.N., associate professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, recently was awarded more than $1.4 million to study the effect of certain medications, nitrates and nitrites in food and water, and the combined effect of these exposures on the risk of birth defects, the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States.

Dr. Brender received $1,424,394 for four years from the National Institutes of Health National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

“This new study builds upon and expands our previous research on the relation between nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosatable drugs and neural tube defects in the Texas-Mexico border population,” Dr. Brender said. “We will be investigating the possible association of these exposures with several birth defects, including neural tube defects, oral clefts, heart defects and limb malformations.”

The large-scale study – with collaborators from Texas A&M University, Texas State University, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Boston University, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and University of Iowa – will use data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Birth Defects Prevention Study that contains births from 10 states, including Texas. The DSHS Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention has been one of the collaborating centers with the National Birth Defects Prevention Study since 1997.

The study examines the separate and joint effects of prenatal exposures to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosatable drugs on risk for selected congenital malformations. Address information from the time around conception will be linked to drinking water systems and nitrate content. The study also examines whether higher intakes of vitamins C or E decrease these potential risks.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its six components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology, the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, and the School of Rural Public Health.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell