Global WACh

May 23, 2023

New grant explores biological pathways associated with growth outcomes in HIV-exposed uninfected infants for future interventions


(Top row) Drs. David Taylor Hendrixson and Christine McGrath.
(Bottom row) Drs. Grace John-Stewart and Benson Singa.

Dr. David Taylor Hendrixson, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics – Divisions of Neonatology and Pediatric Infectious Diseases, received a two-year Pilot and Feasibility (P&F) Research Awards supported by the UW Medicine Diabetes Institute, Diabetes Research Center, and Nutrition and Obesity Research Center. The project is in collaboration with Drs. Christine McGrath and Grace John-Stewart (UW Department of Global Health), Dr. Benson Singa (UW-KEMRI), and the UW Northwest Metabolomics Research Center.

The grant titled, “The Plasma Metabolome, Gut Microbiome, and Growth in HIV-Exposed Uninfected Infants,” leverages the Tunza Mwana study (PI: McGrath)—a prospective mother-infant cohort study to evaluate the association between maternal HIV infection, human milk oligosaccharide (HMO) composition, and the infant gut microbiome, and identify HMO-mediated pathways associated with morbidity and linear growth in HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) infants in Kenya—to generate evidence of biological mechanisms that negatively affect infant health outcomes, such as poor growth, poorer neurodevelopment, and increased risk of mortality, for novel future interventions.

Through the application of targeted metabolomics and lipidomics (highly sensitive analytical techniques for assessing small molecules) on collected plasma samples from participants, the project seeks to identify metabolome, lipidome, and microbiome composition (which play specific roles in regulating healthy cell, organ, and biological functions) that are disrupted in HEU infants and lead to profound effects on infant health. New data generated on these compositions will inform future interventions aimed at preventing or reversing metabolic derangements that affect brain function and bacterial dysbiosis that cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome, benefiting both HEU and HIV-unexposed uninfected children at risk for poor growth.  We look forward to sharing updates as this project progresses.