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Tracing the Mother-Child Connection in Diabetes

Some research focuses on mothers, other, on children. But finding research on metabolic syndrome (including diabetes and a related condition, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) that considers the impact of a mother’s health on the child she is carrying? 

That’s more unusual, and highly interesting, says Yanqio Zhang, M.D., a researcher and director of the Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism research focus area at Northeast Ohio Medical University. 

Tuesday, May 4, Jacob (Jed) Friedman, Ph.D., Chickasaw Chair and director of the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center at the University of Oklahoma, presented a seminar titled “The New Face of Diabetes and Obesity – a Lifespan Approach” for the University’s Dr. Hans G. Folkesson Memorial Seminar Series. The event was presented virtually by the Department of Integrative Sciences.

Public health implications

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease worldwide, affecting nearly 40% of obese youth and up to 10% of the general pediatric population. In Dr. Friedman’s presentation, attended virtually by faculty, students and postdoctoral fellows, he discussed the evidence for an early nutritional origin of Pediatric NAFLD beginning in the womb.  

Dr. Friedman also delved into the evidence of a pregnant woman’s diet on the microbiomes of her developing fetus — and the attendant implications for public health. “The initial pathway focuses on the first 1,000 days of life, from conception to age 2, and focuses on preventing the transmission of obesity and diabetes across generations,” he said.

Dr. Friedman noted that half of the children in the U.S. are exposed in utero to mothers diagnosed as overweight or obese, or with gestational diabetes. “Strategies to mitigate the adverse effects of in utero exposures have the potential to significantly impact the health of current and future generations of children,” he said.

A Product of NEOMED

Today, Dr. Friedman holds professorships in physiology, pediatrics, biochemistry and medicine at the University of Oklahoma. In addition, he serves as associate vice-provost of diabetes programs at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in addition to his role directing the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center. 

Distinguished University Professor John Chiang, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Integrative Sciences, remembers working with Dr. Friedman, Ph.D., back when Dr. Friedman was a student in the BMS program (a NEOMED partnership with Kent State University) and a lab technician at NEOMED. On a side note, Dr. Chiang also remembers that Dr.  Friedman met his wife, Sheri Davy-Friedman, M.D. (’95) while she was enrolled in the College of Medicine.

Dr. Chiang has taken note over the years as Dr. Friedman has distinguished himself as a leader in research on pediatric obesity and diabetes related to metabolic syndrome. It was at his recommendation that Dr. Friedman be invited to speak. 

Watch Dr. Friedman’s presentation, “The New Face of Diabetes and Obesity – a Lifespan Approach” 

Learn more about the Dr. Hans G. Folkesson Memorial Seminar Series

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