Developing a microdialysis sensor to monitor baby’s health during labour

Fiona Denison, Marc Desmulliez, Michael Crichton, Till Bachmann, Eddie Clutton, Andrew Brown

We need better ways to monitor the baby’s health during labour. Our scientists are developing a new sensor based upon cutting-edge technology, which could help ensure any problems during labour are spotted and acted upon as early as possible.

Start: August 2018

End: August 2020

Why do we need this research?

During labour, if the baby doesn’t get enough oxygen it can lead to long-term health problems like brain damage, or even death. However, the methods we currently used to monitor the health of the baby during labour are not reliable enough. We need better ways to monitor baby’s health, so that action can be taken as quickly as possible if needed to prevent any long-term health problems.

What’s happening in this project?

Our researchers are developing new methods to measure a chemical called lactate in the baby’s body. This chemical increases in the blood if the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. However, blood lactate levels are currently measured by making a small cut in the baby’s scalp while it is still in the womb, which is difficult to do and very invasive. It also only provides a ‘snapshot’ of the lactate level in the blood, rather than a continuous picture of the baby’s health.

Researchers supported by Tommy’s are developing sensors which can continuously measure lactate levels. One way they are doing this is to use a technology called microdialysis, where tiny needles are placed into the skin which can sample the fluid around the cells in the body. For example, people with diabetes can use microdialysis sensors to help them check their blood glucose levels.

Our scientists are now trying to develop a tiny microdialysis sensor, which can be attached to the baby’s scalp in the womb to monitor lactate levels in their body.

What difference will this project make?

If this project is successful, it could provide a new way to continuously monitor the health of babies during labour. This would mean that any problems could be acted upon as soon as possible. This would help to reduce the chances of long-term health problems for babies.

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