Top Bristol researchers awarded grants to help sick babies and children | Action Medical Research

Top Bristol researchers awarded grants to help sick babies and children

3 November 2011

Three leading research teams in Bristol have been given more than £400,000 in grants by children’s charity Action Medical Research, to carry out studies which aim to help reduce the suffering of sick babies and children.

The charity has been supporting significant medical breakthroughs for nearly 60 years, and has today announced the grants awarded to institutions in Bristol, totalling more than £400,000 for work on reducing brain damage in children with brain tumours, preventing brain damage at birth, and understanding more about what triggers premature labour.

None of the charity’s work would be possible without the generosity of people who make donations, raise funds and take part in events, as well as our trust and corporate partners.

Dr Alexandra Dedman, Senior Research Evaluation Manager, said: “At Action Medical Research we are determined to stop the suffering of babies and children caused by disease and disability. We know that medical research can save and change children’s lives. The charity finds and funds some of the best medical research in the world for the benefit of babies, children and young people.

“Our gold standard scientific review process ensures that we only fund the best doctors and researchers in children’s hospitals, specialist units and universities across the UK and we are delighted to announce these grant awards.”

The full details of the grants awarded are as follows:

Brain tumour removal – minimising brain damage - £98,120 – 18 month grant - School of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Bristol and Department of Neurosurgery, Bristol Institute of Clinical Neurosciences, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol.

The brain is the commonest site for solid tumours in children and most childhood brain tumours occur in an area at the back of the brain called the cerebellum. Treatment is usually surgery, however a distressing side effect of the operation can be a disorder called cerebellar mutisim syndrome. Symptoms usually appear 1-2 days after surgery and include loss of speech and severe difficulties with movement. Most children eventually recover to some extent but this can take a long time. The researchers aim to find out if the cause of cerebellar mutism syndrome is due to damage of specific regions of the brain important in language and movement during tumour removal. The researchers hope to develop techniques that allow them to record brain activity directly from the cerebellum during surgery.

Preterm labour – studying the actions of oxytocin - £195,773 – three year grant - School of Clinical Sciences, University of Bristol

Preterm birth is a major cause of death or long term disability in newborn babies and affects 7-10 per cent of all pregnancies worldwide. Surprisingly we still know very little about the process that controls contractions during labour, and therefore it is very difficult to stop contractions when they start prematurely. The researchers aim to investigate how the hormone oxytocin, which is involved in the onset of labour, prepares the womb for contractions. The researchers will try to understand how the uterus can change from being in a relaxed state, able to carry the baby safely for many weeks, to a state of contraction and delivery. This knowledge could help us manage preterm labour more successfully and may also indicate how to induce the onset of labour in a more safe and effective manner.

Birth asphyxia – preventing brain damage - £125,341 – two year grant - School of Clinical Sciences, St Michael’s Hospital and University of Bristol

Newborn babies (preterm or term) who suffer from lack of oxygen around the time of birth may die or develop permanent brain injury. This lack of oxygen, called birth asphyxia, is the cause of 23 per cent of newborn deaths worldwide. Optimal resuscitation following birth is therefore crucial. Recent guidelines recommend that cooling therapy and assisted ventilation are administered if necessary. Often a baby will need both assisted ventilation and cooling therapy, but it is not yet fully known how these two therapies interact. The researchers want to find out if administering ventilation with different concentrations of oxygen can damage the brain and reduce the effectiveness of cooling therapy. It is hoped the results will rapidly improve clinical guidelines.

For further information please contact: Claudine Powell, Communications Manager, T: 01403 327478
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Action Medical Research is the leading UK-wide medical research charity dedicated to helping babies and children. We know that medical research can save and change children’s lives. 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. Today, we continue to find and fund the very best medical research to help stop the suffering of babies and children caused by disease and disability. We want to make a difference in:

• tackling premature birth and treating sick and vulnerable babies
• helping children affected by disability, disabling conditions and infections
• targeting rare diseases that together severely affect many forgotten children.

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