Diabetes in pregnancy associated with impaired lung function and childhood asthma

This article originally appeared in AllerGen's reAction Newsletter - February 2017.

Diabetes in pregnancy may lead to impaired lung development and poor respiratory health among infants, according to a new review paper by researchers at the Developmental Origins of Chronic Diseases in Children Network (DEVOTION) in Manitoba.

The article, “Diabetes in pregnancy and lung health in offspring: developmental origins of respiratory disease,” was published in Pediatric Respiratory Reviews and provides a summary of studies reporting associations of diabetes in pregnancy and respiratory outcomes in infants and children.

Together, these studies provide evidence that exposure to diabetes in utero may have adverse effects on an infant’s lung development, including delayed lung maturation and an increased risk for a condition known as respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). RDS is a breathing disorder in which the air sacs (alveoli) in a newborn's lungs collapse because the production of a substance that coats the alveoli (surfactant) is absent or insufficient.

According to lead author Dr. Meghan Azad, a Research Scientist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba, a potential mechanism for the association between diabetes in pregnancy and infant RDS is related to high circulating levels of glucose in the diabetic mother.

“From the studies we reviewed, it appears that newborns who were exposed to hyperglycemia in utero may have impaired production of surfactant proteins that are important for proper lung function,” said Dr. Azad, who is also an assistant professor in Pediatrics & Child Health at the University of Manitoba, and an investigator with AllerGen’s CHILD Study. “Our review also found that these clinical observations have been confirmed in rodent models of diabetes in pregnancy.”

The research team also observed a positive association between diabetes in pregnancy and childhood asthma—a finding seen in four studies from four countries—and identified this as an interesting area for future research.

Dr. Vernon Dolinsky, an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, was a study co-author. “Long-term studies will be particularly valuable for establishing lifecourse implications of diabetes in pregnancy on lung health,” he said. “To our knowledge, there is no study that has investigated these associations beyond early adolescence.”

Dr. Dolinsky is leading a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) study about diabetes in pregnancy using samples from the CHILD Study.

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New Partnership Brings Mental Health to the Front of the Class

Physical and Health Education Canada (PHE Canada) and The Co-operators are proud to announce a new partnership that will support mental health literacy and improve well-being in school communities across Canada. Teach Resiliency is an online portal and community of practice offering teachers tools and strategies to assess resilience needs and resources to promote and enhance teacher and student mental health. 

Research indicates approximately 20 per cent of Canadian students are suffering from a mental health illness and, in comparison to the general workforce, almost twice as many Ontario teachers feel stressed all the time (Canadian Psychiatric association, 2012; Koller & Bertel, 2006; Ontario College of Teachers, 2006; Jamieson, 2006). Teach Resiliency is a response to recent research and a 2014 study released by PHE Canada that identified gaps and needs of teachers in supporting positive mental health for themselves and their students.
 
Mental health is a priority focus for The Co-operators, the Presenting Partner of the Teach Resiliency program.
 
“One in five Canadians will live with mental illness, and all too often it is misunderstood. As a society we can, and must, do better,” said Rob Wesseling, president and CEO of The Co-operators. “Teach Resiliency will provide valuable resources to better equip both teachers and students to prevent, recognize and address mental health challenges.”
 
Teach Resiliency is a PHE Canada initiative, being developed in collaboration with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and Western University – Centre for School Mental Health, and is set to launch in May, 2017.
 
“Teach Resiliency is a unique initiative supporting the mental health and well-being of students and teachers alike. We are thrilled to partner with The Co-operators whose support will allow for the continued evolution of the program and impact in school communities across the country,” said Brian Storey, President and CEO of PHE Canada.