Jean Brender Ph.D.

Jean Brender Ph.D.

Jean Brender, Ph.D., associate dean for research and a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health, recently co-authored a review paper on neural tube defects (NTDs) published online in Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology.

“Neural tube defects on the Texas-Mexico border: What we’ve learned in the 20 years since the Brownsville cluster,” is the most recent publication to result from the Texas Neural Tube Defect Project (TNTDP). This project was a six-year case-control study of NTDs along the Texas-Mexico border to examine the environmental, genetic and nutritional factors that contribute to a higher risk of NTDs.

To date, 23 papers have been published from the project, results of which are discussed by the review paper just published.

Additionally, Anna C. Graham, M.S.P.H., a 2009 TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health graduate and thesis student of Dr. Brender, has collaborated on the project. In 2010, she served as lead author on a paper regarding the relationship between dietary methionine intake and NTDs.

Since 2002, Dr. Brender has served as an author on 11 publications resulting from this project, four of which she was named lead author. Her work on nitrates, nitrites and nitrosatable drugs and NTDs among Mexican-Americans living along the Texas-Mexico border led to U.S. National Institutes of Health funding of a national study of these exposures and various birth defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study.

“I have really enjoyed working with the Texas Department of State Health Services collaborators on the Texas Neural Tube Defect Project,” Dr. Brender said. “The experience serves as an excellent example of the fruitful collaboration that can occur between scientists in public health agencies and schools of public health.”

Additional authors include Lucina Suarez, Ph.D., Marilyn Felkner, Dr.P.H., and Mark Canfield, Ph.D., of the Prevention and Preparedness Division of the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) in Austin; Huiping Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute of the Department of Nutritional Services at The University of Texas at Austin; and Katherine A. Hendricks, M.D., M.P.H.T.M., of the Bacterial Special Pathogens Branch of the Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Dr. Hendricks served as the principal investigator of the CDC-funded TNTDP while at the DSHS.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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