Understanding congenital heart disease
Each year in Australia, it is estimated 2,400 babies are affected with congenital heart disease. People with complex and severe congenital heart disease require specialist treatment throughout their life.
Understanding congenital heart disease and the factors that impact the maternal environment prior to and during pregnancy will be the focus for researchers at the Robinson Research Institute, after being awarded $3 million in funding from the Federal Government’s Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
Professor Michael Davies from the Lifecourse and Intergenerational Health Research Group says congenital heart defects affect the normal function of the heart, and are present at birth.
“This research will help us discover what alters the earliest stages of human development, particularly through the cardiovascular system, that can lead to developmental anomalies in future generations,” Professor Davies said.
“We are using a whole of population approach and have assembled a census of all births in South Australia from 1986 to 2015 that have been linked to the births defect registry, routine medicines prescribed around the time of conception, and targeted interventions for infertility that may alter fetal development.”
The research group will identify what contributes to congenital heart defects ranging from maternal pre-existing factors such as age, BMI, chronic disease; the emergent diseases in pregnancy such as preeclampsia and diabetes; the use of prescription medicines known or suspected to have a role in congenital anomalies; and the medical interventions associated with the risk of congenital heart defects such as twin pregnancies from IVF, and ovulation induction drugs used to improve fertility.
“This research will lead to a much better understanding of congenital heart defects, and ultimately help with prevention strategies, earlier detection and improved outcomes for patients and families.”