IMPPICT: Identifying Markers of Prognosis in Placental Insufficiency to optimise participation in Clinical Trials of potential therapeutics

Dr John Timms, Prof Anna David, UCL

Placental insufficiency is a complication during pregnancy, where the placenta does not deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to the developing baby, causing poor growth (fetal growth restriction). Together, placental insufficiency and fetal growth restriction are the most common causes of still birth both before and during labour. In pregnancies where fetal growth restriction is identified, the current management is to deliver the baby before death or organ damage occurs. Normally this is between 26-32 weeks, but infants that are very premature can suffer complications including brain, lung and gut problems, and are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure as adults. Unfortunately, there are currently no treatments that can be used during pregnancy to improve the growth of the developing baby. In order to progress to a point where clinical trials for improving foetal growth become a reality, safe and accurate tests that can identify the pregnancies at greatest risk of still birth are required. This is the aim of Dr Anna David’s IMPPICT study. Using samples collected from women at the time of diagnosis, for who they have detailed clinical information, the researchers will look for blood based markers that are linked to the outcome of the pregnancy. They will study 7 key factors in the bloodstream that are known to be related to the growth of blood vessels, as well as 92 proteins that are involved in cardiovascular disease.


 

Brain protection, heart function and lung safety of 3 days xenon inhalation with mild hypothermia therapy in perinatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy-pilot translational study

Dr Ela Chakkarapani, University of Bristol

Nearly 3/1000 babies suffer brain injury due to a lack of oxygen and blood supply to the whole body during birth. Although cooling therapy, commenced within 6 hours of birth can have a modest effect on preventing brain damage, nearly 50% of babies still suffer death or disability. This study will use a pre-clinical model to assess the efficacy of cooling therapy delivered alongside xenon gas inhalation at protecting the brain, heart and lungs after oxygen deprivation during birth.


 APOLLO – A Premature Ovarian insufficiency study Linking Limited Ovarian function to genomics

Prof Janice Rymer, Prof Catherine Williamson, King’s College London

Premature ovarian insufficiency is a loss of function of the ovaries in women younger than 40 years old, also known as ‘early menopause’. It is thought this condition affects 1% of the female population, with causes including infection, cancer treatment and autoimmune disease; however in 70% of cases the cause is unclear. The aim of this study is to investigate the genetic factors associated with premature ovarian insufficiency, using patient samples.


 

 

Role of connexin 43: Putative factor which affects fetal membrane healing and tissue strength

Dr Tina Chowdhury, QMUL

This project is on pre-term birth. The researchers are looking at the mechanism involved in the rupture of the amniotic membrane which envelops the baby in the womb. It ruptures normally at about 37 weeks. This research is studying why it ruptures early in pre-term birth, identifying key proteins in the process.


 

 

Paternal Health and Pregnancy Outcome; an investigation into the role of paternal insulin resistance and weight loss on fetal growth and development

Dr David Williams, UCL

Fetal growth is affected not only by maternal health, but also by genes inherited from both the mother and father.  Previous studies have shown that babies born to diabetic men have a lower birth weight compared to non-diabetic fathers.  This project is focussed on identifying a link between paternal weight and birth weight, and identifying chemical changes which could be passed on to the infant.  The researchers believe that the weight and diabetic state of the father is a pre-conception risk factor.  If correct, a normal paternal body weight could become an important public health initiative to improve the birth weight, development and reduce the overall risk of type 2 diabetes in their children.

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