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Massachusetts Study Center: Massachusetts
Phone: 888-302-2101
Website: www.mass.gov/birthdefectscenter
E-mail: ma@nbdps.org
  1. Study Center
  2. Principal Investigator
  3. Local Activities & Research
  4. Partners
  5. Recent Publications

Study Center
The Massachusetts Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention is a key component of the Massachusetts public health system. It is made up of experienced staff from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, and MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGH), Genetics Unit. The Center also draws on the expertise of the region's clinicians and researchers and fosters communication among them.

The Massachusetts Center performs the following activities:

  • Collects data on subjects with birth defects and identifies related trends
  • Searches for causative factors linked with birth defects
  • Addresses community concerns about birth defects
  • Provides information and referral to families of children with birth defects
  • Measures the success of screening and prevention efforts

Principal Investigator:
Marlene AnderkaMarlene Anderka ScD, MPH, has served as the Principal Investigator and Director of the Massachusetts Center for Birth Defects Research and Prevention at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) since 2001.  She oversees the collection of NBDPS data as well as development and implementation of the birth defects research agenda for the MA Center. She works closely with the two Center Co-Principal Investigators: Allen Mitchell, MD, Director of the Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University and Lewis Holmes, MD, Director of the Genetics Unit at MassGeneral Hospital for Children...Read More


Local Activities and Research:
As part of the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), the Massachusetts Center leads national efforts to understand the use of the wide range of medications taken by pregnant women and to evaluate whether these medications may increase the risk of birth defects. In this important and specialized area, we conduct our own investigations of the NBDPS data, and provide expert advice to researchers in other centers around the country. Some of our current and future research includes:

  • Studying whether prescription, over-the-counter medicines and herbal preparations might increase risks for birth defects.
  • Identifying genetic risk factors that play an important role in whether a particular medicine increases the risk of birth defects. Families planning pregnancies can use this kind of information to avoid certain medications which could harm their babies.
  • Studying whether new genetic mutations can cause birth defects, such as congenital heart defects, limb deficiencies, and diaphragmatic hernia.
  • Linking Massachusetts birth defects surveillance data to the unique Massachusetts Pregnancy to Early Life Longitudinal database so we can identify medical services that are used and the costs and outcomes among infants with selected birth defects.
  • Studying the link between assisted reproductive technology and higher risks of birth defects. Massachusetts families frequently use assisted reproductive technology and our center will study this problem with the hope of identifying how risks might be reduced in the future.
Collaborators:
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Slone Epidemiology Center, Boston University
  • MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGH), Genetics Unit
Partners
  • Brigham & Women’s Hospital
  • Massachusetts Chapter of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
  • Boston University School of Public Health, Department of Maternal and Child Health
  • Boston University School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology
  • Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Children’s Hospital Boston, Division of Endocrinology
  • Children’s Hospital Boston, Department of Surgery
  • Finnell Laboratory, University of Texas-Austin, Institute of Biosciences and Technology
  • Seidman Laboratory at Harvard Medical School

Recent Publications

Lin AE, Krikov S, Riehle-Colarusso T, Frias JL, Belmont J, Anderka M, Geva T, Getz KD, Botto LD, and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Laterality Defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (1998-2007): Birth Prevalence and Descriptive Epidemiology. Am J Med Genet A. 2014 Oct;164A(10):2581–91.

Ahrens KA, Anderka MT, Feldkamp ML, Canfield MA, Mitchell AA, Werler MM, & the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Antiherpetic medication use and the risk of gastroschisis: findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997-2007. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology. 2013 Jul;27(4):340-45.

Van Bennekom CM, Mitchell AA, Moore CA, Werler MM and the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Vasoactive Exposures during Pregnancy and Risk of Microtia. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2013 Jan;97(1):53-9.