Young Scientist Kim Maasen presents on using novel technologies to assess the effects of nutrition on infant development – The FaCE study

Kim is a Scientific Officer working with the Nutrition Theme on the Facial Characteristics and Embryogenesis (FaCE) study at MRC Unit The Gambia (MRCG) which aims to assess whether babies conceived in the dry season have greater variation (asymmetry) than those conceived in the rains. The FaCE study is performed by taking 3D face images of a large group of children (500) conceived during either the dry or the rainy season in West Kiang. The face is especially interesting as a measurable read-out of overall variation in development since the shape and symmetry of our faces are known to be very sensitive to developmental changes.

3D image of participant being captured in our study room

3D image of participant being captured in our study room

Each picture can be created into a 3-dimensional image that can be rotated and viewed from all sides (190°, ear-to-ear). New methods of analysis can afterwards be used to compare subtle variation/asymmetry between individual faces, most of them too small to be visible by the naked eye, but detectable with such sensitive techniques.

As the coordinator of the fieldwork and 3D-photographer for this study, Kim’s previous experience as an intern in Keneba allowed her to work with a motivated multi-disciplinary team that managed to invite over 500 mothers with their children for a study day in Keneba. The critical role Kim plays within the FaCE study facilities the better understanding of the way in which exposures from the environment before and during pregnancy influence development of the baby and health outcomes later in life.

Kim Maasen, Scientific Officer, Nutrition Theme

Kim Maasen, Scientific Officer, Nutrition Theme

To demonstrate her research during the MRCG festival, some visitors will have the opportunity to have their own 3D image taken using a high technology 3-dimensional camera. The 3D imaging works by taking 20-second videos, consisting of 150 individual pictures. In this way, the best-positioned image with the best facial expression can be selected from the video.

When asked about her expectations for the event, Kim said, “I am very excited to meet collaborators, community elders and students and to get the opportunity to show them the many ways in which MRCG is involved in medical research aiming to create a strong basis for future (nutrition) interventions”.

Kim’s research interest is in nutrition and health, focusing on the underlying metabolic mechanisms in the human body. She graduated with an MSc in Molecular Nutrition and Toxicology from the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands. Beyond research, Kim is passionate about running. She recently organised a half marathon race with a colleague in Keneba for all Keneba staff. She also enjoys caring for their pet goats.