US child-health study rises from ashes of high-profile failure

The government’s cancelled National Children’s Study has a successor that may sidestep earlier challenges.

Frederica Perera has stocked a dozen freezers with an unusual biological bounty over the past two decades. Inside are vials of umbilical-cord blood, urine and placentas from more than 700 pregnant women and their children from the Washington Heights, Harlem and South Bronx neighbourhoods of New York City. This biobank has proved invaluable in her efforts to understand how urban environments influence children’s health from birth through childhood.

Now, Perera’s team is gearing up for another challenge: developing a tool that can test her bank of umbilical-cord blood samples for common pollutants and use the results to predict later impacts on neurodevelopment and obesity. The scientists are also joining a major US government programme that seeks to understand how environmental, behavioural and social factors affect children’s health.

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