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Dr. Elizabeth Yen awarded Hood Foundation grant

Elizabeth Yen, MD is a neonatologist at Tufts Medical Center at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. MIRI PI Dr. Elizabeth Yen has received a Child Health Research Award from the Charles H. Hood Foundation as Principal Investigator for the study “Evaluation of the Sex-dependent Impact of Prenatal Opioid Exposure on the Developing Brain.” The goal of this grant is to examine how prenatal opioids affect the developing brain in a sex-dependent manner and to identify neonates at risk for more severe opioid withdrawal using non-invasive neonatal salivary gene expression and brain magnetic resonance imaging. 

Infants born following in utero exposure to opioids suffer from a constellation of withdrawal signs, called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome (NOWS). With a five-fold incidence in the last decade and cost exceeding two billion dollars annually, NAS remains a public health problem that lacks robust biological mechanisms and objective diagnostic measures. Through non-invasive salivary transcriptomic and brain imaging, we begin to understand how opioids dysregulate feeding receptors conveniently located in proximity to the drug receptors, resulting in a hallmark withdrawal sign, i.e., uncoordinated and excessive sucking (hyperphagia), that is distinct across sex. Utilizing these non-invasive platforms, researchers at MIRI aim to develop multifaceted, objective measures to predict withdrawal severity and enable short- and long-term precision medicine for high-risk infants. 

Since 1942, the Hood Foundation has funded groundbreaking and innovative pediatric research in the New England area. The Foundation makes meaningful change possible by filling the gaps in the medical research and innovation funding marketplace that springboard the next generation of cutting-edge scientific leaders and advancements in pediatric health.  The Hood Foundation’s Child Health Research Awards Program helps young investigators succeed in new, independent roles by giving them opportunities to demonstrate creativity in their field that lead to both career advancement and additional research funding. 

Read more about Dr. Yen’s research here >