Dr. Victoria Niklas is a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Newborn Services at Olive View-UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Niklas earned her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Harvard University. She completed her residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and a fellowship in perinatal and neonatal medicine at UCLA.
Dr. Niklas has over 25 years of experience as a clinician investigator and neonatologist integrating basic and translational science in diseases afflicting the newborn. Her career has focused on understanding the immune system in the susceptibility of the newborn to infection and inflammation in the body’s largest mucosal surface, the intestine. She is a recognized expert in mouse models of intestinal immune T cell development and the pathogenesis of intestinal inflammation, in diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis, a life-threatening intestinal disease of primarily premature infants. More recently, she was the site PI for a phase I/II RCT of enteral human recombinant lactoferrin evaluating its role in reducing hospital-acquired infections (HAI) in very low birth weight infants. Lactoferrin was safe and reduced HAI in premature infants. Also, the normally pathogenic flora was reduced in the feces of lactoferrin treated infants when compared to controls, suggesting one possible mechanism whereby lactoferrin reduced HAI in these infants.
Dr. Niklas wishes to extend these studies by exploring metagenomic signatures of maternal disease (such as obesity) in the taxonomic composition of the gut microbiota acquired by the newborn at birth. Well-described microbial signatures of obesity in adults may result in disease-associated microbial signatures in the newborn intestine. Hence, maternal flora may have a long-lasting impact on the infant’s later risk of diseases, such as obesity, in later life. The reduction in childhood obesity among breastfed infants suggests that components in breast milk (lactoferrin, milk’s microbiome, or milk oligosaccharides) may lower this risk. Possibly by influencing heritability or stability of an obesity-associated intestinal microbiome. Advanced genomic tools and sequencing will be used to explore the composition and diversity of this microbiome between mother and baby. It is, however, envisioned, that a “Mother Baby Cohort” will serve as a springboard for extended “life studies” enabling interdisciplinary, interventional and observational studies of health and disease. These endeavors will advance knowledge and ultimately improve care practices in the management in the perinatal interface with a far-reaching impact on our understanding of health and the origins of disease throughout life.
Relevant Recent Publications
- Sherman MP, Miller MM, Sherman J, Niklas V. Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2014 Apr; 26(2): 146-50. PubMed PMID: 24503532.
- Sherman MP, Zaghouani H, Niklas V. Gut microbiota, the immune system, and diet influence the neonatal gut-brain axis. Pediatr Res. 2015 Jan; 77(1-2): 127-35. PubMed PMID: 25303278.
- Sherman MPS, Adamkin DH, Radmacher PG, Sherman J and Niklas V. Protective Proteins in Human Milk: Lactoferrin Steps Forward. NeoReveiws 13(5): 293-301, 2012.
- Sherman MP, Sherman J, Arcinue R and Niklas V. Lactoferrin meets the NICU Habitat: Effects on the fecal microbiome of VLBW infants. Submitted, 2015.
- Sherman MP, Adamkin DH, Niklas V, Radmacher P Sherman J, Wertheimer F and Petrak K. Randomized Trial of Human Recombinant Lactoferrin (Talactoferrin) Oral Solution in Preterm Infants, In preparation 2015