With the help of all our supporters we have played a significant role in many medical breakthroughs for 65 years, starting with the development of the first UK polio vaccine. Here are some highlights.
New MRI scanning techniques, developed with over £270,740 of funding across two grants from Action Medical Research, are helping to save unborn babies who are at risk of brain damage and other life-threatening or life-changing conditions.
Accurate 3D images can now be captured even when an unborn baby or the mother does not stay perfectly still and the process, which used to take 12 hours, now takes just 30 minutes.
Jeune syndrome is a rare but devastating condition that affects the growth and development of babies’ bones in the womb. Babies with Jeune syndrome are born with short arms and legs and an unusually small ribcage, which can cause life-threatening breathing problems. This inherited condition can also result in eye, kidney and liver disease.
Every year in the UK around 100 boys are diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Most lose their ability to walk between the ages of 10 and 14 years. They will eventually become paralysed and many lose their lives by their late twenties. Although this cruel disease is incurable, new treatments to slow down disease progression offer vital hope to families.
About one in 10 babies born in the UK every year needs some form of help in the first few minutes after birth to stimulate breathing and to ensure the heart is beating properly. That adds up to a staggering 80,000 newborn babies each year, more than 200 babies every day.
In the UK around 29,000 babies, children and young people are estimated to live with visual impairments which affect everyday life. Children with a sub-group of visual impairments called ‘visual field defects’ have gaps in their field of vision, meaning they cannot see everything they should be able to see. This kind of problem may be minor in children with near-normal vision, or severe, meaning the field of vision is very restricted.
Children diagnosed with rare, inherited conditions such as spondylocostal dysostosis suffer curvature of the spine and reduced height, leading to other problems such as breathing difficulties and mobility issues. Whilst the causes of spinal malformations – and the genetic risks for future children – have remained largely elusive, the effects on children’s health and wellbeing are tragically apparent.
Around 60,000 children and young people under the age of 18 in the UK are estimated to have epilepsy. Drug treatments have unpleasant side effects and, sadly, one in four lives with epilepsy that is difficult to control with medication.
Walking can be very painful for the many thousands of children with cerebral palsy (CP) and other foot problems. This has a major impact on their lives and can exclude them from taking part in numerous activities. Ninety per cent of children with CP develop deformities in their feet caused by unusual forces on the foot during their early development.
Each year, almost a million newborn babies worldwide will lose their lives after suffering brain injury due to oxygen shortage. Until recently there haven’t been any specific treatments to prevent this damage but a groundbreaking cooling therapy is changing that.
Premature babies have digestive systems that are not yet fully developed and are vulnerable to infection. When fed with milk, those who have not grown in the womb properly are recognised to be at risk of developing a condition called necrotising enterocolitis which causes serious inflammation of the bowel wall. Up to 3,000 babies are affected by this a year in the UK; tragically 35 per cent of them will die.
The hormone thyroxine is important in maintaining our energy levels to allow everyday activity. But in children, and especially in babies, it has another vital function: it is essential for the normal growth and development of the brain and body.
Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a serious genetic blood disorder which affects around 12,500 people in the UK. It is more common in people whose family origins are African, African-Caribbean, Asian or Mediterranean. SCD can cause poor blood circulation in the brain which can lead to learning difficulties.
Tragically, around 4,000 babies are stillborn every year and thousands of women hospitalised with pregnancy complications that put babies’ lives at risk.
Metal prostheses are used to replace limb bones that have been destroyed by tumours or would otherwise require amputation. But until recently this has been problematic for children, as the implants need to be extended to keep up with the child’s natural rate of growth.
Around one in every 20 children in the UK is registered as having a disability. Those who are severely disabled can be prone to chronic pain and yet cannot communicate how they are feeling. This means their pain can go unrecognised and untreated.
Children and babies are at particular risk of meningitis, a serious and sometimes fatal infection caused by different bacteria and viruses. Those who survive can face permanent disabilities, such as vision and hearing loss, learning difficulties and limb amputation.
More than 100,000 people are admitted to UK hospitals every year with a head injury, a third of them are children.
Rubella is a viral infection that can cause severe abnormalities in an unborn baby if contracted by the mother in the early stages of pregnancy. Also known as German measles, it can result in learning disabilities, deafness and heart problems, all symptoms of a serious condition called congenital rubella syndrome (CRS).
Women trying to become pregnant are now routinely advised to take folic acid supplements to prevent spina bifida and the number of cases in the UK has dramatically reduced. These days it is estimated that just over one baby out of every 1,000 born is affected by spina bifida, however 60 years ago that number was over three times higher.
Around eight out of every 10,000 children in the UK have severe disabilities and need posture support for daily activities. But specialised seats can be expensive and often cause painful pressure sores.
Ultrasound is used in pregnancy to monitor a baby’s development and diagnose problems. It uses sound wave technology which was originally designed to detect flaws in the metal hulls of ships and to aid submarine navigation.
Sixty years ago polio was one of the most feared diseases in the developed world. In the early 1950s, 8,000 people were paralysed by polio each year in the UK. Tragically, five to 10 per cent lost their lives after their breathing muscles became immobilized.