While the majority of pregnancies progress smoothly, some experience serious problems that can endanger both mother and child. Ectopic pregnancy, a condition in which a pregnancy grows outside the uterus, affects two percent of all pregnancies. Left untreated, it is a leading cause of early pregnancy death in Australia. MIMR researchers are pioneering a non-surgical treatment for ectopic pregnancy using targeted cell therapy. If this trial is successful, it will allow women to avoid invasive surgery, which carries a risk of internal bleeding and fertility issues.
Researchers at MIMR are developing therapies for preeclampsia, by targeting different pathways in the maternal blood that are known to be affected by this condition. Pregnant women affected by preeclampsia suffer from dangerously high blood pressure, and potentially, multi-organ failure. The only ‘cure’ for preeclampsia is the delivery of the baby. As such, it is a leading cause of premature birth in Australia.
A life-threatening challenge facing all babies born prematurely is their inability to breathe properly. Physiologists and neonatologists at MIMR and Monash Newborn, Southern Health are developing new therapies, including the application of stem cells from the placenta following birth, to protect and repair fetal and neonatal lung development. Researchers are also working with engineers using groundbreaking synchrotron science to monitor how air travels through the lungs in healthy and premature babies.
Researching the fetal and newborn brain is crucial to understanding how events in pregnancy, labour or early newborn life can cause brain injury. Through their research, MIMR researchers and clinicians aim to develop new interventions that may protect the developing brain and reduce the prevalence of cerebral palsy and other neurodevelopmental abnormalities.
Sleep and breathing disorders in babies and children can result in health, behavioural and cognitive issues. MIMR is home to researchers recognised as word leaders in this area. They are aiming to better understand how the control of the cardiovascular system and breathing, particularly in preterm infants, may contribute to increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Collaborative studies with the Melbourne Children’s Sleep Unit, Southern Health, are being carried out in older children to investigate how sleep disorders affect the cardiovascular system and the ability to learn.
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