Dr. Farook Jahoor, professor of pediatrics – nutrition at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital, has been named a Grand Challenges Explorations winner, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Grand Challenges Explorations funds individuals worldwide to develop new solutions for persistent global health and development challenges. Jahoor's project is one of more than 100 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 8 grants – which focus on one of five global health and development topic areas that include agriculture, development, immunization and nutrition.

Arginine production

Jahoor's research will focus on whether healthy women in India produce less arginine, an amino acid that plays several important roles in pregnancy, compared to healthy Jamaican and American women. Indian women have the highest rate of low-birth-weight babies in the world, whether the women are well-nourished or undernourished. Jahoor's previous research has shown that these women make arginine at half the rate as pregnant Jamaican and American women.

His project will explore whether these low production rates of arginine exist in healthy, non-pregnant Indian women compared to Jamaican and American women. If this is the case, researchers can go on to study what can be done to improve the levels of arginine in Indian women.

Study objectives

"I'm very excited because these funds will enable us to perform studies to determine whether the non-pregnant normal weight Indian woman inherently produces less arginine, to identify the underlying mechanisms involved, and whether this in turn impairs the synthesis of other important compounds that are needed for a successful pregnancy," said Jahoor.

"Further, these findings may help us to design targeted interventions to improve arginine availability during pregnancy in Indian women, which in turn may reduce the high incidence of low-birth-weight babies."

The initial grant is for $100,000 and successful projects have the opportunity to receive a grant for up to $1 million.