Touching Lives - October 2009
Protecting babies in the womb
Investigations into the role of a newly discovered protein, called MCT10, could lead to better ways to protect unborn babies from death and disability.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham, led by Professor Mark Kilby, believe MCT10 could be important in two distressing conditions that endanger the health of unborn babies: thyroid disorders in expectant mothers, which affect up to five per cent of pregnancies in the UK, and fetal growth restriction, which affects around five to eight per cent.
Sadly, these conditions are linked to miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, and some babies who survive are left with long-term health problems, such as learning difficulties.
There are no effective treatments for babies with fetal growth restriction and it’s not entirely clear how best to treat pregnant women who have a thyroid disorder.
The researchers suspect MCT10 may play a key role in the essential supply of thyroid hormones to unborn babies, that it may affect the growth of the placenta, and that abnormally low levels of this protein may be linked to the poor growth of some babies with fetal growth restriction.
They are investigating their ideas about the importance of MCT10 and hope their work will pave the way for the development of new treatments.
Thanks go to The Henry Smith Charity for funding this project.