A post-doctoral research associate at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) has won the 2005 Young Investigator Award given by the Spina Bifida Association of America (SBAA). Shveta Taparia, Ph.D., has been honored for her proposed research plan to study the determinants of folic acid transport across human placental cells. IBT is located in the famed Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
The $25,000 award will enable Dr. Taparia to be the principal investigator for the grant project, which is entitled “Determinants of Transplacental Folic Acid Transport Across Human Trophoblastal Cells’ Role in Spina Bifida.”
After winning this competition that was carried out across the United States and the United Kingdom, Dr. Taparia says, “This is an exciting opportunity for me, a new Ph.D. graduate beginning my life’s research career.” She received her doctorate from Tufts University in Boston last year in nutritional biochemistry and now performs her research in the lab of Dr. Richard H. Finnell within the IBT’s Center for Environmental and Genetic Medicine.
She notes that folic acid supplementation reduces neural tube defect incidences by seventy percent and then adds, “However, we still don’t know the underlying principles of this phenomenon. Folic acid transport across the placenta may be a key limiting process that can determine the bioavailability of folate for normal development of the fetus. My research will attempt to understand and identify the molecular players involved in this process of folate transport into placental cells, with potential prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic implications for spina bifida.”
The award from the SBAA was selected from proposals sent in from initial or continuing young researchers. A peer review committee made their selection on the basis of the strength of the applicant’s science, educational preparation, the degree of support to be provided by the applicant’s organization, and the long-term commitment to research into spina bifida.

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