A modified Michaelis-Menten equation estimates growth from birth to 3 years in healthy babies in the USA

BMC Med Res Methodol. 2024 Feb 1;24(1):27. doi: 10.1186/s12874-024-02145-1.


Background: Standard pediatric growth curves cannot be used to impute missing height or weight measurements in individual children. The Michaelis-Menten equation, used for characterizing substrate-enzyme saturation curves, has been shown to model growth in many organisms including nonhuman vertebrates. We investigated whether this equation could be used to interpolate missing growth data in children in the first three years of life and compared this interpolation to several common interpolation methods and pediatric growth models.

Methods: We developed a modified Michaelis-Menten equation and compared expected to actual growth, first in a local birth cohort (N = 97) then in a large, outpatient, pediatric sample (N = 14,695).

Results: The modified Michaelis-Menten equation showed excellent fit for both infant weight (median RMSE: boys: 0.22 kg [IQR:0.19; 90% < 0.43]; girls: 0.20 kg [IQR:0.17; 90% < 0.39]) and height (median RMSE: boys: 0.93 cm [IQR:0.53; 90% < 1.0]; girls: 0.91 cm [IQR:0.50;90% < 1.0]). Growth data were modeled accurately with as few as four values from routine well-baby visits in year 1 and seven values in years 1-3; birth weight or length was essential for best fit. Interpolation with this equation had comparable (for weight) or lower (for height) mean RMSE compared to the best performing alternative models.

Conclusions: A modified Michaelis-Menten equation accurately describes growth in healthy babies aged 0-36 months, allowing interpolation of missing weight and height values in individual longitudinal measurement series. The growth pattern in healthy babies in resource-rich environments mirrors an enzymatic saturation curve.

Keywords: Birth cohort; Growth; Height estimation; Michaelis–Menten equation; Weight estimation.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Kinetics*
  • Male