Associate Professor Mohamad Elabiad Receives $26,818 Grant for Blood Transfusion Research

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A $26,818 grant from The Gerber Foundation will allow Dr. Mohamad Elabiad and his research team to investigate whether blood transfusions given to premature infants should cause concern of heavy metal toxicity.
A $26,818 grant from The Gerber Foundation will allow Dr. Mohamad Elabiad and his research team to investigate whether blood transfusions given to premature infants should cause concern of heavy metal toxicity.

Small amounts of two heavy metals, lead and mercury, are naturally present in human blood. In adult transfusions these amounts are not significant enough to cause any concern. For extremely premature infants, however, the story is different.

Frequent blood transfusions, which naturally contain lead and mercury, theoretically increase the risk of toxicity from these metals in the vulnerable, immature brain of a premature infant.

Mohamad Elabiad, MD, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has received a $26,818 grant from The Gerber Foundation to investigate whether extremely premature infants can safely handle the amounts of lead and mercury acquired through blood transfusions. The award will support a project titled, “Pharmacokinetics of Lead, Mercury and Cadmium in Extremely Low Birth Weight Infants After Co-Transfusion with Packed Red Blood Cells.”

If successful, the research will show that blood transfusions are potentially a significant source of heavy metals in this vulnerable population. It is expected that this will lead to new regulations on how blood transfusions are evaluated and cleared, similar to the way donor blood is tested for infectious diseases.

“This project started seven years ago with a theoretical study that looked at how much lead and mercury a premature infant would receive when given blood from the average adult in the United States,” said Dr. Elabiad. “Since then, each phase of the investigation produced data with enough concern for possible heavy metal toxicity for the premature infant to take the research a step further. Our current investigation will be the most important part so far as it looks at proof of direct toxicity from these metals.” The study will also evaluate for other metals like cadmium.

The mission of The Gerber Foundation is to enhance the quality of life of infants and young children in nutrition, care and development. For more information, visit www.gerberfoundation.org.