Research update: Placental Ageing

By Lacey Fitzgerald, Prevention and Research Manager

Researchers in a laboratory

We’re excited to announce that thanks to your incredible generosity, researchers are another step closer to developing a blood test to predict stillbirth.

About the research project

With your support, our researchers have been hard at work finding markers to indicate a pregnant mother’s individual risk for stillbirth, due to placental ageing.

By analysing exosomes, which are tiny particles that a placenta releases into a mother’s blood stream, we can measure how well a placenta is working. By finding and testing these in blood samples, we can interpret those results to identify pregnancies at higher risk.

The life-saving difference this project can make

In Australia approximately 2,107 babies are stillborn each year. It’s a tragedy for the parents and families and a major public health problem that our nation needs to address.

Doctors at the Hunter Medical Research Institute have identified that stillbirth is often associated with ageing of the placenta. The placenta is an organ that supplies the baby with oxygen and food to help them grow. If the placenta fails the baby cannot survive.

Researchers are developing ways of identifying ageing of the placenta by measuring special markers released by the placenta into the mother’s blood.

A recently completed study, led by Laureate Professor Roger Smith, has found three different markers of stillbirth risk that can be identified in pregnant women. For example, if one or all of these markers are abnormally high, then a doctor could intervene and provide treatment to slow the placental ageing process or even deliver the baby early, before the placenta fails.

Can you imagine being able to easily identify those most at risk and intervening before the unimaginable happens? It could save thousands of babies.

Next steps

Next step in this project is to expand on these promising results and run further tests in a larger group of women. If it’s shown to be effective, then these tests could be rolled out and widely available to expectant mothers.

This is just one example of how your support provides hope for the future. With your ongoing generosity, in the future more babies could be born before they are affected by stillbirth. Thank you!

You can support further stillbirth research projects today – Donate now >

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