Fogarty Global Health Fellow
Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology
John A. Burns School of Medicine
651 Ilalo Street, BSB 320
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813
University of Yaounde 1
Telephone: (+237) 78 25 92 32
San Jose State University, California. B.A., 2008 – Biology
San Jose State University, California, M.B.T., 2010 – Biotechnology
University of Hawaii at Manoa, Hawaii. Ph.D., 2013 – Tropical Medicine
Dr. Babakhanyan is a NIH Fogarty Global Health Fellow and is working in Cameroon under the mentorship of Prof. Rose Leke (Univ. of Yaounde I, Cameroon) and Dr. Diane Taylor (Univ. of Hawaii). Her project seeks to identify molecular mechanisms involved in intrauterine growth restriction among children born to HIV-positive women. Prematurity and intrauterine growth restriction are chief causes of low birth weight (LBW) babies. LBW babies have 40-fold increased rate of mortality during the first year of life. Infectious diseases such as malaria and HIV increase risk of women delivering babies with LBW. Few studies have examined maternal endocrine profiles in the context of HIV-positive pregnant women and no study has investigated relationship between factors produced by the placenta and endothelial cells, such as hormones, growth factors, angiopoetins and LBW babies in HIV-positive women. Based on the importance of these factors in homeostasis of pregnancy and their dysregulations in disease, we hypothesize that this dysregulation also occurs in HIV-positive pregnant women and ultimately contributes to LBW outcomes.
In collaboration with Cameroonian scientists, Dr. Babakhanyan recruits pregnant women at the Yaounde Central Hospital close to delivery and collects clinical information and maternal, cord and placental samples. The samples are processed and analyzed for protein and mRNA levels for selected factors. Collecting placental samples at the Central Hospital exposed to her additional “risk factors” for morbidity and mortality, such as lack of education among women, gender power inequities, poverty and transactional sex. Also, prevalence of women attending antenatal care is low; thus, most pregnant women are not linked to HIV or malaria prevention programs. These experiences reaffirmed her decision to pursue both translational and implementation global health research.