IISBR faculty and Assistant Professor Jenna Riis, Ph.D., was recently awarded a $200,000 grant as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) ECHO Opportunities and Infrastructure Fund to continue critical research on salivary uric acid.
IISBR’s latest Opportunities and Infrastructure Fund project proposes to expand Dr. Riis’ previous research on salivary uric acid by assaying archived saliva samples for uric acid from a subset of children at ages 6- and 24-months in the Family Life Project ECHO cohort. The new grant provides investigators an opportunity to examine the sensitivity of salivary uric acid to psychosocial stress among infants and young children and explore associations between early-life salivary uric acid and cardiometabolic risk in childhood and adolescence. The study is set to begin sample testing in the fall of 2019.
A previous study led by Dr. Riis showed salivary uric acid had a robust, positive serum–saliva correlation and salivary uric acid was relatively stable across time. The research also found differences in salivary uric acid based on sex and BMI. These data shed new light on salivary uric acid’s potential as an important biomarker for indexing health and disease risk.
In a subsequent collaboration with Jennifer Woerner, Ph.D., investigators also found that salivary uric acid at baseline was associated with blood pressure changes in response to a stressor task. Those findings suggest that salivary uric acid may be implicated in hypertension and cardiovascular health disparities through associations with elevated blood pressure responses to acute social stress. However, both of these studies were conducted with adults, and did not evaluate if the same associations are present among children.
The current grant will allow Dr. Riis and her collaborators to assess the utility of salivary uric acid as an environmentally-sensitive and minimally invasive biomeasure related to cardiometabolic outcomes in childhood and later life. “This study represents a new direction in the investigation of the links between early-life adversity and later-life health,” says Dr. Riis. “To fully understand how early environments impact health across a range of physical and mental domains, we must examine multisystem functioning and interactions with the environment in early life. With this new funding, we will be able to examine children’s biological adaptations to stress and adversity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, autonomic nervous, and purinergic systems, and determine whether purinergic functioning in infancy/early-childhood is associated with cardiometabolic health.”
Findings from this study may be quickly translated into real world applications, as dietary and pharmaceutical interventions targeting uric acid levels are already available. Dr. Riis notes: “We hope our findings can inform new methods for the large-scale assessment, monitoring, and potential prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic risks in early life.”