Developing immunotherapy to prevent spontaneous preterm birth
Professor Rachel Tribe is aiming to develop a new treatment that can help prevent spontaneous preterm birth by modifying the mother’s immune and inflammatory responses during pregnancy. If the approach is successful, it could lead to happier outcomes for many babies and their families in the future.
Importance of sleep cycles on brain development
Professor Topun Austin of Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is leading a study to help preterm babies who are at higher risk of long-term neurodevelopmental complications. Professor Austin and his team will investigate the importance of a baby’s natural sleep cycle for healthy brain development and how caring for these babies in an environment unlike that of the womb – in the bright lights and loud noises of the neonatal unit – may interrupt these essential sleep cycles.
Reducing the risk of preterm birth
Currently, there are no treatments available that can reliably prevent premature womb contractions while also being risk-free for the mother and baby. For example, many drugs that are effective at reducing contractions may also relax blood vessels and affect blood flow to the womb or placenta, which could put the baby at risk.
At Newcastle University, Professor Michael Taggart hopes to change this by investigating ways to target the muscles of the womb without affecting other important tissues. This research could ultimately lead to safer and more effective treatments for spontaneous preterm birth. We are co-funding this project with Borne.
Helping preterm babies combat life-threatening infections
Bacterial infections are a particular risk for preterm babies during their first few weeks of life and sadly, it can result in loss of life or serious lifelong disabilities. Currently, it is difficult to confirm an infection, as the normal tests are hard to interpret in preterm babies, but at King's College London Dr Deena Gibbons hopes to change this.
Dr Gibbons and her research team aim to improve our understanding of how the preterm immune system reacts to severe bacterial infections, which will be crucial for developing new ways to improve tests and treatments for these vulnerable babies – helping to save lives.