UW News

August 5, 2004

Pharmacy-based research center focuses on drug transport in pregnancy

Dr. Jashvant Unadkat, professor of pharmaceutics, is program director for a Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) funded by the Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health, with support from the National Institute of Child Health and Development.

The Specialized Center of Research, based in the School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutics, is funded for a five-year span from 2002 through 2007. The projects launched as part of the grant all focus on mechanisms by which drug metabolizing enzymes and transporters alter maternal and fetal drug exposure during pregnancy. Several different proteins act as drug transporters, both within the mother’s body and across the placenta to the fetus. For many reasons, pregnant women with chronic medical conditions need to take prescription medications, and information on how best to dose and manage those medications is scarce, Unadkat says.

One project of the SCOR, with Unadkat as principal investigator, focuses on how and why the body’s disposition of anti-HIV protease inhibitors, by cytochrome P450 3A and P-glycoprotein, is altered during pregnancy. Another, led by Mao, is studying the role of breast cancer resistance protein in drug disposition during pregnancy. A third project, being conducted at the Medical College of Georgia, is studying a specific organic cation transporter.

In addition to Unadkat, UW invetitgators working with the SCOR are Drs. Mary Hebert, Kenneth Thummel and Qingcheng Mao in the School of Pharmacy and Dr. Thomas Easterling in the School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The UW Specialized Center of Research is one of 11 funded by the Office of Research on Women’s Health to conduct research on various aspects of “sex and gender factors affecting women’s health.” One of the other centers, at Emory University in Atlanta, is conducting studies on the pharmacology of anti-epileptic and psychotropic medications during pregnanacy and lactation. Other centers focus on topics ranging from sex differences in pain sensitivity to urinary tract infections.