Neonatology Research

In addition to numerous individual research projects and collaborations outlined in the faculty paragraphs below, the Division of Neonatology is part of the NICHD Neonatal Research Network (NRN), which was established in 1986 to address the critical need for research to improve the treatment and health outcomes in infants. The NRN is a collaboration between 15 sites across the United States. The Division of Neonatology at UNM has been an NRN member from 1991 – 2001 and 2006 – 2023. Ongoing observational and intervention studies continue in the unit at this time.

Additionally, we participate in the Vermont Oxford Network (VON), a collaboration of more than 1300 hospitals to provide quality improvement to neonatal care. Ongoing studies continue in collaboration with the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) and the Institutional Developmental Award (IdeA) States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network.

Research Faculty

Dr. Amin’s primary research interests are pathogenesis and clinical manifestations of acute and chronic bilirubin-induced neurotoxicity, pathogenesis of bilirubin-induced dental toxicity, and beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of unconjugated bilirubin. He has conducted multiple funded observational studies in the US and India over the last 20 years, funded by multiple NIH centers. His other research interests include the role of nutrients and trace elements in neonatal health, growth, and neurodevelopment. He is currently the PI of an NIH-funded multinational clinical trial to evaluate the effect of iron supplementation on neurodevelopment in term infants. He has additional ongoing clinical studies to evaluate the role of vitamin D on bone health, immunomodulation, and neurodevelopmental outcomes. He has also performed studies to evaluate the adverse effects of systemic inflammatory response on neonatal outcomes; adverse effect of steroids on myelination and long-term neurological outcomes; and adverse effects of hypothyroxinemia on neonatal outcomes and neurodevelopment. He has experience using several different neurological assessment tools, such as auditory brainstem evoked response, visual evoked response and diagnostic and standardized neurobehavioral evaluation tests to evaluate the effect of perinatal factors on neurodevelopment during early childhood. He has been PI for multiple clinical trials including the effect of ceftriaxone on bilirubin-albumin binding, effect of iron supplementation on neurodevelopment in premature infants, dose effect of intravenous lipids on cholestasis, and effect of chest shielding during phototherapy on the incidence of PDA. He has mentored fellows and young faculty for more than 25 years in grantsmanship and scholarly work. To pursue his interest in nutrients, trace elements, and long-term neurological outcomes, he has received funding from NIH, CTSI, Gerber Foundation, and Mead Johnson. He has more than 50 first author or senior author publications and is a member of American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Society for Pediatric Research (SPR), and American Pediatric Society (APS). His future interest is to expand the neuroscience research at the UNM using complementary expertise of several neonatal and neuroscience faculty, and the state-of-the-art neuroimaging center at the MIND center. 

Dr. Fuller’s research has focused on developmental outcomes of high-risk infants. She has had on-going collaborations with Jean Lowe, PhD, looking at effects of maternal and infant interactions on developmental outcomes in term versus preterm infants, with a particular focus on infant emotional regulation and executive function. Dr. Fuller was the site PI for a multicenter NINDS study entitled “Gene Targets for IVH”, and she was the Follow-up PI for the NICHD Cooperative Multicenter Neonatal Research Network from 2007 to 2011 and co-author on several NRN papers. She is now the site co-PI for the NICHD NRN.  Dr. Fuller is the NRN neuro examiner for UNM and she works closely with Dr. Lowe (Follow-Up PI). Dr. Lowe and Dr. Fuller have had a strong working relationship for over sixteen years, and they have co-mentored several fellows in their research endeavors. Dr. Fuller was also involved with the NRN research collaboration with the IDeA States Pediatric Network in collecting data on neonates with in utero opioid exposure and the design of a multi-center trial. She was the site PI for the ACT NOWS data collection study.

Pubmed Link for Janell Fuller, MD

Dr. Lowe is one of the co-founders of the Developmental Care Program at UNM and she is certified in a variety of evaluation tools and continues to be the division’s gold standard evaluator for the Neonatal Research Network. She has published numerous articles related to the developmental outcome of infants born extremely preterm with and without intraventricular hemorrhage. More recently her research has expanded to look at the relationship of prematurity to the development of early executive function including neuroimaging techniques in her research studies. Dr. Lowe’s research also focuses on maternal child interactions and how this is related to early development. She is a collaborator on numerous studies through the Division of Neonatology, Department of Neuroscience and Mind Research Network focusing on normally developing children, preterm infants and toddlers and children alcohol exposed.

Pubmed Link for Jean Lowe, PhD

Dr. Maxwell’s primary research interests include the impact of prenatal exposures on the developing brain. Specifically, she investigates the effects of exposure to alcohol and/or opioids in utero on the structure and microstructure of the brain, as well as the impact this has on long-term neurodevelopmental function. Utilizing preclinical models, she is able to employ translational modes of investigation including Touchscreen behavior testing and Magnetic Resonance Imaging to detect subtle changes in cognitive functioning and organization of brain structure. She also investigates dendritic complexity in the frontal cortex, a region known to impact cognitive abilities. Dr. Maxwell is involved in the New Mexico Alcohol Research Center and is a co-investigator in the Ethanol, Neurodevelopment, Infant and Child Health (ENRICH-2) clinical study. Dr. Maxwell is also the site co-PI for the ACT NOW clinical trials and the director of research for the division of neonatology.  

Pub Med Link for Jessie Maxwell, MD

Dr. Papile is an experienced clinical investigator and is an author or co-author of over 100 peer reviewed publications, as well as editorials, policy statements and book chapters. Dr. Papile’s research endeavors have focused on clinical studies related to perinatal brain injury and the neurodevelopmental outcome of very low birth weight infants. In 1978 she published a landmark paper that delineated the prevalence and spectrum of periventricular, intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) among very low birth weight infants. She has been the recipient of several national research awards from the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Science Foundation. In addition, she has been awarded grants from both private and public entities to conduct clinical research. Currently she is the New Mexico site Principal Investigator for an NICHD multi-center study focused on burnout among caregivers in the NICU.

Pubmed Link for LuAnn Papile, MD

Dr. Watterberg has over 30 years’ experience conducting studies exploring newborn adrenal function, its relationship to inflammation and BPD, and long-term outcomes after preterm birth. She was PI for the first large randomized controlled trial of early hydrocortisone to decrease bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD; Pediatrics 2004 Dec;114(6):1649-57). She is the New Mexico Principal Investigator for the NICHD Neonatal Research Network (NRN, 2006-2023), which has multiple ongoing observational and interventional studies. She also was awarded a grant from NIH to study adrenal function at age six in a cohort of NRN children born extremely preterm (R01HL117764; 2013 – 2019) and found that salivary cortisol at age 6 correlated with perinatal growth and with blood pressure at age 6 (Pediatric Research 2019;83:339-347).Working with colleagues from France, Italy and Finland, she recently completed an individual patient data meta-analysis of the effect of early, low-dose hydrocortisone therapy on bronchopulmonary dysplasia and other outcomes (J Pediatr 2019; 207:136-142).She has mentored fellows, faculty and other learners in research and academic advancement. Dr. Watterberg has served on NIH peer review panels and is a member of the Society for Pediatric Research and the American Pediatric Society.  She has been an AAP member throughout her career and served on the Committee on Fetus and Newborn (COFN) as a member from 2006 – 2012, and as chair (2013 – 2017). 

Pubmed Link for Kristi Watterberg, MD

Dr. Zamora’s primary research interest is in the impact of nutrition on the developing neonatal brain.

Pubmed Link for Tara Zamora, MD