About Us

Established by the North Dakota Board of Higher Education in 2002, the overall goal of the Center for Nutrition and Pregnancy (CNP) is to increase the proportion of healthy, productive offspring by ensuring an optimal maternal environment during pregnancy and lactation. 

In humans, pregnancy complications have been estimated to affect from 1 in 10 to as many as 1 in 2 pregnancies.1-4 Such complications include placental complications (e.g., placenta previa, hypertension of pregnancy [also called preeclampsia]), spontaneous abortion (miscarriage), intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), gestational diabetes, and preterm birth. Similarly, pregnancy complications probably affect all mammals, including livestock.5-8

Various factors that affect fetal and postnatal development, such as poor maternal nutrition, are major contributors to postnatal mortality in mammals, including livestock and humans. In U.S. livestock, for example, the rate of postnatal mortality is 5 to 10%.5 Compared with the rest of the developed world, the U.S. also suffers a high incidence of preterm birth and low birth weight in humans, which are major risk factors for infant mortality.9-11

In both humans and livestock, most postnatal mortality occurs in the first 7 days after birth, implying a problem with fetal development or the birth process, or both. Moreover, in both humans and livestock, growth restricted offspring per se may be at risk not only of immediate postnatal complications but also may be ‘programmed’ to develop a host of problems later in life, including metabolic syndrome (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), poor growth and body composition, Immune dysfunction, reproductive failure, pervasive developmental disorders (autism, Asperger’s, Rett’s, etc.) as well as a host of other significant problems – a concept known as ‘Developmental Programming.’

In humans, Developmental Programming may perpetuate health and social problems over generations, whereas in livestock it affects meat, milk and fiber production and hence economic returns.5-8,12-16

Since its inception in December 2002, the CNP has become one of the premiere centers in the world addressing the impact not only of maternal nutrition but also various other factors (e.g., maternal age, multiples) on fertility (the ability to conceive and maintain a pregnancy), fetal and placental growth and development, and postnatal outcomes including life-long health and productivity (i.e., Developmental Programming).

Researchers in the CNP represent a wide range of disciplines, from Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to Embryology, Genetics/ Genomics, Microbiology/Microbiome, Nutrition, Pharmacology, and Physiology. An important focus of these efforts is on development of various therapeutic and nutritional strategies designed to ‘rescue’ fetal growth and development that has been compromised by poor maternal nutrition or other factors.

Faculty and students involved in the CNP have published more than 200 peer-reviewed articles and reviews in international journals, organized and spoken at numerous national and international symposia, sat on many Federal grant review panels, hosted numerous visiting scientists, and supervised many graduate and undergraduate student research projects.

References Cited 

  1. Complications of Pregnancy. Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/staying-healthy-during-pregnancy/complications-of-pregnancy (accessed 04 May 2023).
  2. Pregnancy Complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-complications.html (accessed 04 May 2023).
  3. Law A et al. The prevalence of complications and healthcare costs during pregnancy. J Med Econ 2015; 18(7): 533-41. https://doi.org/10.3111/13696998.2015.1016229.
  4. Hinkle et al. Pregnancy complications and long-term mortality in a diverse cohort. Circulation 2023; 147: 1014-25. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.062177.
  5. Wu, G., F. W. Bazer, J. M. Wallace, and T. E. Spencer. 2006. BOARD-INVITED REVIEW: Intrauterine growth retardation: Implications for the animal sciences. J. Anim. Sci. 84:2316–2337.
  6. Caton, JS and BW Hess. 2010. Maternal plane of nutrition: Impacts on fetal outcomes and postnatal offspring responses. Invited Review. Pp. 104-122 in Proc. 4th Grazing Livestock Nutr. Conf.
  7. Reynolds LP, Borowicz PP, Caton JS, Vonnahme KA, JS. Luther, CJ Hammer, KR Maddock Carlin, Grazul-Bilska AT and Redmer DA. Developmental programming: The concept, large animal models, and the key role of utero-placental vascular development. J Anim Sci 2010b; 88: E61-E72.
  8. Caton JS, Crouse MS, McLean KJ, Dahlen CR, Ward AK, Cushman RA, Grazul-Bilska AT, Neville BW, Borowicz PP, Reynolds LP. Maternal periconceptual nutrition, early pregnancy, and developmental outcomes in beef cattle. J Anim Sci 2020; In press. https://doi.org/10.1093/jas/skaa358.
  9. MacDorman MF, Mathews TJ. 2010. Behind international rankings of infant mortality: How the United States compares with Europe. NCHS Data Brief, CDC.
  10. March of Dimes, 2022. March of Dimes 2022 Report Card Shows U.S. Preterm Birth Rate Hits 15-year High Rates Increase for Women of All Races, Earning Nation D+ Grade.
  11. WHO, 2005, Low birth weight.
  12. Barker DJP, Gluckman PD, Godfrey KM, Harding JE, Owens JA, Robinson JS. Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life. Lancet 1993: 341: 938-942.
  13. Bell AW. 1992. Foetal growth and its influence on postnatal growth and development. In: The Control of Fat and Lean Deposition. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, pp 111-127.
  14. B. W. Hess, T. Delcurto, J. G. P. Bowman, and R. C. Waterman eds. West Sect. Am. Soc. Anim. Sci., Champaign, IL.
  15. Godfrey KM, Barker DJ. Fetal nutrition and adult disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000; 71(5 Suppl): 1344S-52S.
  16. Hack M, Klein NK and Taylor HG Long-term developmental outcomes of low birth weight infants. Future Child 1995; 5: 176-196.
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