Why do we need this research?
Diabetes diagnosed in pregnancy – known as gestational diabetes – affects around 35,000 women in the UK every year. It can sometimes lead to health problems for both mother and baby, including pre-eclampsia, premature birth, and stillbirth. Metformin is a drug often used to treat gestational diabetes, but it isn’t always effective. We urgently need to find new ways to treat gestational diabetes and help reduce the risks for babies.
What’s happening in this project?
A drug called ursodeoxycholic acid (or UDCA for short) is currently used to treat another pregnancy complication called intrahepatic cholestasis in pregnancy. Previously, researchers supported by Tommy’s have found that UDCA might also be a useful treatment for diabetes. Because UDCA works in a different way to metformin, it could potentially provide another option for controlling gestational diabetes.
Our researchers are setting up the GUARD trial to see how effective UDCA is in treating diabetes, compared to metformin. In the trial, women with gestational diabetes will be recruited from three NHS hospitals, and given either UDCA or metformin to treat their condition. The team will study how the drugs compare in controlling blood glucose levels, and will also study what effect they have on complications for the baby, such as growing too fast in the womb.
What difference will this project make?
This study will find out if UDCA could be used instead of metformin to treat diabetes during pregnancy. If successful, this could provide an alternative that doctors can use to help reduce the risks of the condition for both mother and baby.
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Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.
More research projects
In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.