Birth Defects Associated with Diabetes: Researcher Nikita Ved Wants to Educate the Public


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May 10 2020 27 mins  
Researcher Nikita Ved is studying birth defects as a result of diabetes and wants to increase public awareness of these issues. She tells listeners About statistical evidence that shows diabetes-related birth defects is a substantial problem, How the testing protocol in OB-GYN clinics hasn't caught up with the science in how early birth defects develop, and What are possible effects of high blood sugar on various developmental factors, especially the heart. Nikita Ved is a Novo Nordisk Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Dr. Duncan Sparrow's group in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford. She researches how diabetes during pregnancy causes birth defects in the embryo, most commonly heart issues; this includes all forms of diabetes, from the 2 types of diabetes more commonly known as well as gestational. She says that many people don't know that one of the major complications of diabetes happens during pregnancy. If fact, it can increase the rate of miscarriage and birth defects by up to 30%. She explains how difficult it has been to educate the public about these concerns, perhaps because the focus of diabetic complications tends to center on worries about blindness, kidneys, and other neuropathy. Yet she feels that birth defects should be put on the same level of awareness. She describes some of the difficulty involved in these studies but also some protocols that aren't helping, such as not testing pregnant women for diabetes or gestational diabetes until their 2nd trimester while birth defects happen very early in the pregnancy. She advocates for screening for and educating patients about the 2 types of diabetes as they undergo regular gynecological checkups well before they are pregnant. For more and for contact information, see her web page at the lab: https://www.dpag.ox.ac.uk/team/nikita-ved