INFANT, is a research centre based in University College Cork that has a vision to improve health outcomes for mothers and their babies around the world. One of the diseases of pregnancy they are researching is pre-eclampsia. It is the leading cause of maternal death in Europe, a disease directly responsible for the death of half a million babies every year. Pre-eclampsia can affect any pregnant woman and its symptoms include high blood pressure and reduced function in the placenta, liver, kidney and brain of the mother. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is the end of the pregnancy – therefore many babies are delivered early, putting them at risk.
With everything we know about what pre-eclampsia can do and the impact it has, what can we do to help mothers? This is what the INFANT Centre researchers are going to predict it. Led by Prof Louise Kenny, the IMPROVED study is working to find out which mothers are likely to develop pre-eclampsia so their healthcare providers can be prepared. Taking blood and tissue samples from 5,000 women across Europe who have generously donated them, the researchers are exploring the tiny differences between women who have straightforward pregnancies and women who have pregnancies complicated by pre-eclampsia. This work will help them single out tiny markers in the blood which will be predictive of pre-eclampsia. Doing this will let them move on to giving a quick and painless test to women early on in their pregnancies, and if those markers are present in their blood, their healthcare team will know to give them extra care and attention to keep those mothers and their babies safe through the pregnancy.