The largest study of U.S. children ever performed – aiming to track 100,000 from conception to age 21 – will start recruiting N.C. mothers-to-be in January.
The National Children's Study aims to learn how the environment and other factors affect youngsters' health, especially development of such conditions as autism, asthma, learning disabilities, diabetes and obesity.
Scientists will examine a range of factors, including the diets of pregnant women and young children and the effects of chemicals used in plastics.
Tight budgets from Congress have delayed the project, which in 2004 began selecting 105 locations where women and their children can participate.
But on Friday, the National Institutes of Health took a long-awaited step, announcing that two research centers will start signing up women for the study's pilot phase in January.
UNC Chapel Hill will be recruiting women from Duplin County.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine, which is also taking part in the study, will be recruiting in New York.
By spring, enrollment in the remainder of the pilot sites is planned, in parts of California, Pennsylvania, Utah, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Nationwide enrollment for the full study is set for summer 2010.
No, scientists won't have to wait until participating babies grow up for results: Initial data on preterm births could come as early as 2012.