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$2M funding for nutritional sciences project


Toronto, ON – The Canadian Insititutes of Health Research (CIHR) has announced $2-million in funding to support the work of Dr. Deborah O’Connor, senior associate scientist and registered dietitian, SickKids, and nutritional sciences professor at University of Toronto, as well as Mount Sinai Hospital neonatologist Dr. Sharon Unger.

The two scientists will examine the long-term impact of feeding donor human milk to very preterm infants on growth, body composition and neurodevelopment, and optimize both donor breast milk and mother’s own milk by investigating different ingredient and nutrient additions.

In Canada, the leading cause of infant death and disability is preterm birth, making the importance of optimal nutrition for newborns vital. O’Connor and Unger’s initial research into the role of donor breast milk led to the opening of Ontario’s only milk bank – the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank, which collects, processes and distributes donor breast milk to NICU’s across Ontario.

“The strength of this research is that it has the potential to be a real game changer in improving neurocognitive development among our most vulnerable babies,” says O’Connor. “I would personally like to thank SickKids for serving as the lead institution on this research.”

This study will be pivotal in setting feeding guidelines for very low birth weight infants in Canada and globally. It also received critical support from the following co-investigators at SickKids: Drs. Sam Doesburg, Jill Hamilton, Steven Miller, Paul Pencharz, Joanne Rovet, Emily Tam, Margot Taylor, Chris Tomlinson and Randi Zlotnik Shaul.