Uni awarded $2.37m for pregnancy research

Monday, 4 April 2005

The University of Adelaide's Research Centre for Reproductive Health has been awarded $2.37 million over three years from the Premier's Science and Research Fund for a project called SCreening fOr Pregnancy Endpoints (or SA SCOPE).

Professor Gus Dekker is the Clinical Director and Dr Claire Roberts is the Director of Research for the project that will form a major collaboration with the University of Auckland's Associate Professor Robyn North.

"We are embarking on an ambitious project to develop diagnostic tests to predict a couple's risk for the three main complications of late pregnancy: preeclampsia, intrauterine growth restriction and pre-term birth," Professor Dekker said.

"Together, these pregnancy complications afflict 19 per cent of all first pregnancies in Australia and cause significant maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in Australia and worldwide."

In the developed world, an estimated US$41 billion is spent annually on healthcare costs to provide antenatal care, neonatal intensive care and hospitalisation for first time mothers and babies afflicted with these diseases.

"The precise causes of these pregnancy complications are unknown but how well the placenta develops is a key factor in pregnancy success," Dr Roberts said.

Professor Dekker said that lifelong consequences for the babies range from mild learning and behavioural problems to severe disabilities such as cerebral palsy and intellectual handicap.

"Poor fetal growth has also been implicated as a major risk factor for the development of a variety of adult onset diseases including cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. These lifelong health problems cause considerable human suffering and massive costs to the community, the individual and the healthcare system," he said.

Professor Dekker said predicting and preventing pregnancy complications has personal and public health benefits, particularly for the pregnant woman, her baby and future adult health. "SA SCOPE aims to develop diagnostic tests that could predict risk and initiate preventative and therapeutic interventions before symptoms of pregnancy complications appear."

"Currently, there are no such tests and our therapeutic interventions have low efficacy, being simply too little, too late," Dr Roberts said.

This funding will be used to recruit a large number of women pregnant for the first time (and their partners) in Adelaide and Auckland and determine their risk based on tests on maternal and paternal blood samples.

Dr Roberts said the project would allow for advancements in functional genomics and bioinformatics and building and maintenance of South Australian Intellectual Property for continued research and development in South Australia.

The University of Adelaide's commercial development company, Adelaide Research & Innovation Pty Ltd who assisted the RCRH with the grant application, will work closely with the centre's researchers to bring the results of this innovative research, predictive diagnostics for pregnancy diseases, to the community.

 

Contact Details

Professor Claire Roberts
Email: claire.roberts@adelaide.edu.au
Robinson Research Institute
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 3118
Mobile: +61 (0)406 381 575


Professor Gus Dekker
Email: gustaaf.dekker@adelaide.edu.au
Robinson Institute
The University of Adelaide
and Lyell McEwin Hospital
Business: +61 8 8182 9306
Mobile: 0414 909 621


Ms Robyn Mills
Email: robyn.mills@adelaide.edu.au
Media and Communications Officer
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 6341
Mobile: +61 410 689 084