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Childhood outcomes after a trial of extra protein for babies born very preterm

Liggins Institute

About the Project

The Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland has a PhD project assessing childhood outcomes after early nutritional trials.

Low blood glucose in newborn babies can cause brain damage. Dextrose gel helps prevent low glucose levels, but its effect on children’s growth and development at school age is unknown.

Adequate nutrition, particularly of protein, is essential for babies born extremely preterm. Enhanced early nutrition is associated with better early growth and brain development, but it is not known if these early benefits translate into better school performance, and it is possible they may also increase later risk of obesity and metabolic disease.

This project will involve assessing growth, development and behaviour of children at 6-7 years who took part in the hPOD trial of dextrose gel, and who took part in the ProVIDE trial of additonal protein.

The objectives are:
i. To develop a screen-based assessment of cognitive, physical and behavioural skills to be administered at school in 6-7-year old children.
ii. To use this assessment to determine the relationships between early glucose levels, treatment with dextrose gel, or treatment with additional protein, and later development in the hPOD and ProVIDE cohorts.

The Liggins Institute is a world-leading centre for research on fetal and child health, nutrition, development, genome biology and translational and implementation science. Our mission is to improve life-long health through excellent research into the long-term consequences of early life events.

We work across a range of fields to view human health problems from different angles. This unique approach enables us to turn research discoveries into real strategies that will help people to prevent or manage major health problems in the 21st century.
As a research-only institute, we attract some of the best research students and clinical fellows in the world. You’ll be supported by internationally-recognised staff and you’ll benefit from state-of-the-art laboratory facilities and a dedicated clinical research unit.

We are looking for candidates with a degree or equivalent in a health or education-related discipline and a clinical background. Examples include (but are not limited to) neonatology, nursing, midwifery, paediatrics, obstetrics, developmental psychology, educational psychology, education.

Please email a cv and academic transcript to Distinguished Professor Jane Harding


Harris DL, Weston PJ, Signal M, Chase JG, Harding JE. Dextrose gel for treating neonatal hypoglycaemia: A randomized placebo-controlled trial (The Sugar Babies Study). Lancet 382: 2077-83, 2013.

Harris DL, Alsweiler JM, Ansell JM, Gamble GD, Thompson B, Wouldes TA, Yu T-Y, Harding JE on behalf of the CHYLD Study Team. Outcome at 2 years after dextrose gel treatment for neonatal hypoglycemia; Follow up of a randomized trial. Journal of Pediatrics 170: 545-59, 2016. .

HegartyJE, Harding JE, GambleGD, CrowtherCA, EdlinR, AlsweilerJM. Prophylactic oral dextrose gel for newborn babies at risk of neonatal hypoglycaemia: A randomised controlled dose-finding trial (the pre-hPOD study). PLOS Medicine 13 (10): e1002155, 2016. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002155.

Hegarty JE, Harding JE, Crowther CA, Brown J, Alsweiler J. Oral dextrose gel to prevent hypoglycaemia in at-risk neonates. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 7. Art. No.: CD012152, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012152.pub2.

Shah R, Harding JE, Brown J, McKinlay CJD. Neonatal glycemia and neurodevelopmental outcomes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Neonatology 115:116–126, 2019. DOI:10.1159/000492859

Bloomfield FH, Crowther CA, Harding JE, Jiang Y, Conlon CA, Cormack BE. The ProVIDe study: The impact of protein intravenous nutrition on development in extremely low birthweight babies. BMC Pediatrics.2015, 15:100. DOI: 10.1186/s12887-015-0411-y. URL:

Brown J, Embleton N, Harding JE, McGuire W. Multi-nutrient fortification of human milk for preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 5, Art. No.: CD000343. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000343.pub3, 2016.

Harding JE, Cormack BE, Alexander T, Alsweiler JM, Bloomfield FH. Advances in nutrition of the newborn infant. (Invited review). Lancet 389: 1660-68, 2017.

Amissah EA, Brown J, Harding JE. Protein supplementation of human milk for promoting growth in preterm infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews Issue 6, Art. No. CD000433, 2018. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD000433.pub2

To learn more about the Liggins Institute visit

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