Women’s health and paediatrics

Women’s health

Our research focuses on treating and preventing health issues that affect women during their reproductive (child-bearing) years. Our aim is to see measurable improvements in and treatments for these health issues, including preeclampsia, slow fetal growth and stillbirth.

One of our largest studies to date has been the Pregnancy Outcome Prediction study (POPs). Between 2008-12, 4,512 women attending the Rosie Hospital in Cambridge agreed to regular fetal scans and blood tests: what they all had in common was that this was their first viable pregnancy (where the fetus / unborn child has a chance of survival) and the women were classed as being of low risk for complications.

Their partners also agreed to provide DNA samples and height and weight measurements. After the women had given birth, tissue samples, including from the placenta, were collected.

Using the latest ultrasound, biochemical screening and molecular genetics technology, POPs has allowed us to create an extensive biobank (a large collection of biological or medical data and tissue samples), to help us understand what happens when things go wrong in pregnancy, resulting in premature or still birth.

A small number of apparently healthy women are at a high risk of complications in pregnancy, and this theme aims to screen and identify them.

Watch a one minute video of Professor Gordon Smith talking about women’s health research

Paediatrics research

Childhood illness impacts children, their families and society at large. Our research will identify those at risk and provide new therapies that can treat acute disease and adverse developmental effects that can have life-long consequences.

By increasing our understanding of what happens in patients’ cells, particularly in rare and genetic diseases, we can also start to tailor treatments to the individual patient.

Our paediatric research is currently focusing on the early detection and diagnosis / stratification (grouping together of patients who share similar characteristics) of:

  • Neonatal brain disorders including cerebral palsy and epilepsy; working with regional neonatal intensive care units, we use imaging and sophisticated monitoring tools to diagnose neurological problems. We are also collecting samples for genomic (the complete set of genes in a cell) analysis, to aid our understanding of rare neurodevelopmental disorders;
  • Cancer; solid tumours (abnormal clumps of cells that do not contain liquids or cysts) are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Cambridge leads international clinical and biological cancer studies in children, including studies of solid tumours such as lymphoma and neuroblastoma; and
  • Type 1 Diabetes (T1D); what happens in babies that puts them at high risk of developing T1D? We are working with BRCs in Oxford and London to study in detail young people with T1D, and have developed an artificial pancreas (a continuous glucose monitoring device) which cuts out the need for injections.

    Dr Amos Burke discussing the flow cytometric profile of a Burkitt lymphoma taken from a child enrolled in the trial.