The University Record, November 8, 1999

Lozoff receives NIH MERIT Award for work on effects of iron deficiency during infancy

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

Betsy Lozoff, director of the Center for Human Growth and Development, has received a National Institutes of Health MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award for her work on the long-term behavioral, developmental and physical effects of iron deficiency—the world’s most common single nutrient deficiency.

Iron deficiency anemia affects roughly 25 percent of the world’s babies, and iron deficiency without anemia affects many more. In 1981, Lozoff, who also is professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, studied a group of 191 Costa Rican babies with iron deficiency and conducted follow-up studies when the children were 5 years of age, 10- to 15- years of age, and 10–15 and 14–16 years of age. Even though their current health status is excellent, she has found that adolescents who were iron deficient as infants have lower achievement tests scores in reading, writing and arithmetic, and more behavior problems, especially related to anxiety and depression.

The new grant will allow Lozoff and her research team to assess cognitive, motor and emotional functioning at age 19. The goal is to learn how early iron deficiency affects a wide range of behavioral, developmental and physical characteristics of young adulthood, including the pursuit of higher education, job stability and level, mental health, early childbearing, obesity, stunted growth, and cardiovascular health.

The highly selective MERIT awards, provided to fewer than 5 percent of National Institutes of Health investigators, go to researchers who have demonstrated superior competence and outstanding productivity during their previous research endeavors. The awards provide the opportunity to gain up to 10 years of support. Lozoff is one of nine current MERIT recipients MERIT awardees at the U-M.

Other U-M researchers with active MERIT grants are Albert Hermalin, Population Studies Center, for a comparative study of the elderly in four Asian countries; Steven Kunkel, pathology, for monocyte/macrophage signals in lung granuloma; Rowena Matthews, biophysics, for regulation of folate metabolism; Richard Miller, Institute of Gerontology, for activation defects in aging T-cells; William Pratt, pharmacology, for endogenous steroid receptor stabilizing factor; Venkat Reddy, ophthalmology, for intraocular transport and metabolism; William Roush, chemistry, for natural products synthesis via cycloaddition reactions; and Stephen Weiss, internal medicine-hematology, for human phagocytes, oxygen metabolites and inflammation.