Changes lives? You’re wondering…is it an exaggeration? If you consider the kind of research so many of my colleagues and I do, you’ll know being part of the number one gathering for experts in the field of teratology (the study of birth defects) and reproductive disorders, has the potential to affect the masses. Not an exaggeration, especially considering every human is born, right?
Birth defects and reproductive and developmentally-mediated disorders constitute a major public health concern in the world today. Human development and reproductive health can be affected not only by drugs and chemicals, but also by diet, genetics, maternal health, and socioeconomic factors. The Teratology Society, a world-renowned professional organization, strives to understand and protect against potential hazards to developing embryos, fetuses, children, and adults, by bringing together bench scientists, clinicians, and epidemiologists, who tackle these problems in a translational manner. Our members specialize in cell and molecular biology, developmental biology and toxicology, reproduction and endocrinology, nutritional biochemistry, genetics, and epidemiology, as well as the clinical disciplines of prenatal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, neonatology, medical genetics, and teratogen risk counseling. In other words, the research the Teratology Society promotes can literally affect the health outcome of babies being born today, tomorrow and for years to come.
In my career, I am focused on the safety of drugs in pregnancy. I research the potential for drugs to cause birth defects or problems with fertility, and then try to determine whether those risks translate to concern in humans. One of the studies I presented at a Teratology Society annual meeting evaluated the developmental toxicity of an anti-malarial drug in the rat and determined that the embryonic red blood cells were the target of toxicity. Follow-up studies and key discussions with basic and clinical researchers at the Teratology Society allowed us to theorize that the mechanism of toxicity was likely relevant to humans, but that actual effects on pregnancy were unlikely because of the short treatment period of the drug for malaria (less than 7 days), and the longer gestation period in humans.
What an advantage this experience gave me!
The biggest benefit for me in presenting my research at Teratology Society meetings is the multidisciplinary membership. So, researchers like me, who study basic mechanisms of action, can discuss their research with other basic researchers but, at the same time, can interact with clinicians to understand the impact of their research on human health, and to learn what research topics are important to clinicians treating pregnant women. On the flip side, the benefit to clinical researchers is that they can learn what is going on in the basic research area and translate it to their clinical practice.
So why I am writing about this? THE FUTURE OF THIS IMPORTANT RESEARCH IS IN YOUR HANDS.
Now is the time for your work to be in the spotlight…to add to the diverse literature helping to further understand the complexities of birth defects and reproductive disorders, their causes, and potential ways to prevent them. Bring your research forward and present it at the 2015 Teratology Society meeting June 27 – July 1 in Montreal, Quebec. Submit your abstract by February 15th HERE.
Networking with other scientists can lead to further collaborations and job opportunities. Make an impact and change the lives of women and children who benefit from the research. You could very well have a hand in creating healthier lives tomorrow. So, who’s in?!