Start: April 2018
End: April 2021
Why do we need this research?
One of the potential complications linked to premature birth is injury to the baby’s brain. This can have a big impact on the baby’s wellbeing after birth. However, we don’t have the treatments we need to prevent damage to the brain which can be caused by premature birth.
What’s happening in this project?
Researchers believe that the brain injury which can result from premature birth is caused by inflammation in the brain. Previous research has shown that anti-inflammatory drugs called statins – normally used to prevent heart disease – could also be helpful to prevent brain injury. For example, early studies have shown that statins can prevent brain injury in pre-eclampsia.
Our scientists think that statins could be useful to prevent brain injury in premature babies too. Before they can test this in pregnant women, the team need to investigate the idea further in the lab using pregnant mice. The team are currently developing a way to study how premature birth affects the brains of mouse pups. This will allow our researchers to investigate whether statins, such as pravastatin or simvastatin, could prevent brain injury.
What difference will this project make?
The results of this project could provide the evidence we need to begin a clinical trial of statins in pregnant women at risk of premature birth. If successful, this work could lead to a new treatment to prevent health complications in premature babies like brain injury, giving these babies the best chance of a healthy life.
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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.
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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.