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Investment in research leads to larger NIH funding

A small investment in research can reap big rewards. Just ask Michael Georgieff, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and child development‚ whose research team recently witnessed the process firsthand.

It started in July 2004‚ when Georgieff received a $15‚000‚ one-year faculty grant from the Minnesota Medical Foundation to help him develop a model of how iron deficiency affects the developing brains of babies and fetuses. When that funding ran out and the project showed promising results‚ the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund gave him another one year grant in October 2005 worth $12‚000 to continue that research.

During those two years‚ Georgieff and his research team gathered enough preliminary data—with an investment of $27‚000—to leverage a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for $275‚000 over two years. “I wish I could pick stocks like that!” Georgieff jokes.

The NIH grant will allow Georgieff’s team to examine the role of iron in the hippocampus‚ an area of the brain that regulates memory formation. Using a genetic mouse model‚ they will remove iron from the hippocampus while the rest of the body remains iron-sufficient.

Iron deficiency has been linked to problems in motor and cognitive skills‚ but Georgieff says his team wants to find out if these problems are directly linked to iron deficiency in the brain rather than in the body as a whole.

More than 2 billion people around the world are iron-deficient‚ Georgieff says‚ and about 30 to 50 percent of women of childbearing age are iron-deficient. That’s why this research could have a far-reaching impact‚ he says.

Georgieff is thrilled with the return on the initial investment from the Minnesota Medical Foundation and the Minnesota Vikings Children’s Fund. “This is how the system should work‚” he says. “We could not have done this without the generosity of either foundation. Now‚ we may be able to revolutionize how people think about iron deficiency and its short- and long-term cognitive effects.”

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