Birmingham researchers start pioneering research into poor growth in unborn babies
7 September 2009
A team of researchers from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Women’s Foundation Trust, have been awarded a research grant from leading children’s charity Action Medical Research to investigate the role of thyroid disorders on the development and growth of unborn babies.
Thyroid disorders, where levels of thyroid hormones are either too high or too low affect up to 5% of pregnancies , more than 35,000 women in the UK. Thyroid hormones regulate many functions in the body and unborn babies need a supply of thyroid hormones from their mother for the normal development of their brain and nervous system. Thyroid disorders in pregnancy can lead to complications including miscarriage, premature birth and poor growth of the baby.
A newly discovered protein, MCT10, appears to be very good at transporting thyroid hormones and may have an important role in the supply of thyroid hormones to unborn babies. In addition, it may affect the growth and development of the placenta, and very low levels may be linked to poor growth of unborn babies. In this project, researchers will analyse samples of placental tissue taken from women at all stages of pregnancy to find out more about the specific role of MCT10.
Professor Mark Kilby, the project leader and Professor of Maternal and Fetal Medicine at the University of Birmingham: “We are excited about the discovery of MCT10 as early research shows that it may have several roles related to the growth and development of the fetus. Our project aims to determine how MCT10 behaves at the cell level in specific target tissues in both normal pregnancies and pregnancies complicated by growth restriction.”
Dr Yolande Harley, Deputy Research Director at Action Medical Research says: “Thyroid disorders can be a serious complication of pregnancy because of the potential damaging effects on the unborn baby. Action Medical Research believes that this research could lead to a significant step forward in understanding how thyroid disorders in pregnancy affect the baby’s growth and development, with a view to finding new ways to prevent these problems.”
Information revealed in this project will improve understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in the transport of thyroid hormones from the mother to the unborn baby through the placenta. It may also pave the way for new treatments for thyroid disorders and growth restriction. The effects of thyroid disorders are not limited to pregnancy and birth. Research has shown that untreated hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone) in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a reduced IQ in children, compared to children of women without thyroid disorder.3
For further information please contact:
Tola Awogbamiye at Action Medical Research
Tel: 01403 327 493
Ogunyemi DA. Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Pregnancy.. Emedicine – http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/261913-overview accessed on Wednesday 1 July 2009
Birthchoice website – http://www.birthchoiceuk.com/Frame.htm.
Pregnancy and thyroid disease. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service – www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/pregnancy
Girling JC. Thyroid disorders in pregnancy. Current Obstetrics and Gynaecology 2003; 13:45-51.
Notes to editors:
NOTES TO EDITORS:
Action Medical Research is a leading, national medical research charity. For nearly 60 years we have been instrumental in significant medical breakthroughs including the development of the UK polio vaccine and ultrasound scanning in pregnancy. Our research helps babies and children affected by disease and disability. We are currently funding research into serious diseases and conditions, including meningitis, pneumonia, cerebral palsy and inflammatory bowel disease.
The Birmingham Women’s Hospital is a specialist Trust providing care for Women and babies both to the local community of South Birmingham and specialty care to the West Midlands and beyond. The Maternity Services directorate provides maternity care, specialist obstetric and maternal/fetal medicine opinions and delivers approximately 7500 pregnancies per annum. There are a number of designated obstetric medical clinics jointly run by obstetricians and physicians from UHB. The level 3 neonatal intensive care centre is the main ‘perinatal centre’ for the West Midlands allowing both special and intensive care of newborn babies. The research activity is provided by clinical and non-clinical academics working within the College of Medical & Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham. This work is focused in the School of Clinical & Experimental medicine and the theme of “hormones and Genes” did exceptionally well in the RAE08 with 75% of returned outputs rated as 3* or 4*.
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