Filipina doctor made it to the ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women 2020

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Dr. Maria Ruth B. Pineda of University of Santo Tomas is one of the finalists representing the Philippines in the most coveted ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women 2020 on her project research gestational diabetes

By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

Proving once again the Filipino’s academic excellence and world-class competitiveness, Dr. Maria Ruth Pineda-Cortel of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) was chosen to be one of the finalists representing the Philippines in the most coveted ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women 2020.

The announcement was made last April 27, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in collaboration with the United States Government (US) and the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) announced Dr. Pineda-Cortel is the country’s finalist for the annual Science Prize for Women.

A scholar of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), Dr. Pineda-Cortel painstakingly worked on her research project on gestational diabetes to address a prevalent health challenge of pregnant women in the country particularly on the preventive healthcare.

“I am hopeful for a healthcare system that prioritizes preventive healthcare for pregnant women,” Dr. Pineda-Cortel said.

She also pointed out, “Although GDM is a transient condition, it has long term effects on both the mother and the baby, such as the future development of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and risk of obesity.”

The research which was conducted with support from the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) together with nine graduate students from UST, Dr. Pineda-Cortel’s project entitled, “Blood and placental gene expression in gestational diabetes mellitus: potential identification of early biomarkers” aims to identify biomarkers that can be predictive of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) or glucose intolerance during pregnancy.

Dr. Pineda-Cortel pointed out that the disease can cause complications during pregnancy that may lead to premature birth, high blood pressure, low blood sugar, diabetes, or in worst-case scenarios, stillbirth. Studying potential biomarkers of GDM will help identify those who are at risk earlier, and in turn, contribute to the development of strategies that may improve health and maternal pregnancy. The project was participated by pregnant women in different tertiary hospitals and private clinics in Metro Manila.

“Dr. Pineda-Cortel’s project is an example of how we utilize OMIC technologies for health to advance health research for the development of targeted diagnostics which may contribute to better healthcare solutions in the country, particularly in improving Filipino maternal health,” DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya says.

Along with other national finalists from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, Dr. Pineda-Cortel’s project on GDM will be evaluated for the selection of two regional finalists for the pitch competition in Lao PDR in June 2020.

The annual ASEAN-U.S. Science Prize for Women seeks to recognize exceptional women who are engaged in research or are promoting activities related to preventive healthcare in the region and who are role models for other women working in and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.