Current situation: Every year, an estimated 1 in 9 pregnancies are born preterm because the fetal membranes (FM) spontaneously rupture too early. This condition is called preterm premature rupture of the fetal membrane (PPROM) and is a common cause of preterm birth. Increasingly, clinicians are treating the fetus in the womb using fetoscopic and open hysterotomy approaches. However, PPROM complicates over 30% of such surgeries leading to preterm birth in treated babies, reducing the clinical effectiveness of fetal surgery. There are no clinical solutions to improve healing of the FM after surgery or after it ruptures spontaneously.
How this research will help: Our research has found a reason for this poor healing. We have identified a molecular mechanism activated during the repeated stretching of the amniotic membrane linking to the mechanical forces and inflammatory factors causing preterm labour/ PPROM.
To encourage repair, we will develop biomaterials that encourage rebuilding of the membrane, through enhanced tissue healing and delivery of targeted therapeutics.
We will generate biomaterials that (1) have enhanced adhesive, flexibility and strength properties, and (2) promote tissue regeneration in the fetal membrane. We expect that our approach would effectively repair defects in the fetal membranes, therefore preventing PPROM and the life-long medical conditions and disabilities associated with preterm birth.
This project is funded by SPARKS and GOSH charities and suports David Barrett as a PDRA for the next three years (2018-2021).
- BBC World Health News
- On the radio with ABC The Science Show