The importance of the health of mothers and their infants begins before conception, is critical throughout pregnancy and beyond. Our research is improving understanding of the mechanisms which underlie suboptimal maternal and fetal health, detection of difficulties and evidence-based treatments to improve health.
What we are doing about...
1. Fertilisation and the pre-implantation embryo
Dr Walid Maalouf is leading a number of research projects focusing on the effects of different micromanipulation techniques which are commonly used in ART treatment, on fertilisation and on the further development of the mammalian embryo. A special interest of his research group is the impact of new technology in the ART laboratory on the improvement and safety of clinical treatment and animal research.
In collaboration with Dr Nathalie Beaujean at INRA, France, this research group has published a number of articles on the organisation of the embryonic genome after nuclear transfer (aka cloning), and continues to do so. Also, in collaboration with Hamilton Thorne Biosciences, MA, USA, they have been able to assess novel applications of their laser technology during intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and trophectoderm biopsy.
Prof Bruce Campbell, Professor of Reproductive Physiology, is leading research into the causes and treatment of infertility. This research programme aims to increase understanding of the local and endocrine factors which control the process of follicle and oocyte development in monovulatory species.
Advanced in vivo and in vitro model systems have been developed in order to integrate findings made at the molecular and cellular level to the whole organism. In collaboration with Dr Nick Raine-Fenning of the Nottingham University Research and Treatment Unit in Reproduction (NURTURE), vascular phantom and human studies are underway assessing the value of non-invasive 3D functional ultrasound imaging as a means to identify and treat infertile patients.
Further, in collaboration with Prof Bob Webb of the Division of Biosciences and Prof Helen Picton of the Reproduction and Early Development group of the University of Leeds, a programme of work is ongoing examining means to increase the efficiency of fertility preservation in patients at risk of premature ovarian failure by utilising ovarian cryopreservation and autotransplantation.
Finally, in collaboration with Prof Rex Scaramuzzi of the Royal Veterinary College, an established programme of work is ongoing which seeks to determine the mechanisms whereby environmental factors such as acute changes in nutrition, can influence ovarian function and fertility. These research programmes are supported by MRC, BBSRC and industry.
Dr Pam Loughna is leading work in the field of maternal and fetal health, fetal growth and assessment of fetal health in labour. Studies have included:
- Examination of placental function
- The placental blood supply in normal and compromised pregnancies
- Assessment and evaluation of fetal growth and health in utero and after birth
- The role of the renin-angiotensin system in normal and pathological pregnancy
- The relationship of hypertension in pregnancy to cardiovascular and renal disease in women
- Fetal heart rate during pregnancy using ambulatory long term fetal electrocardiogram recordings
We were the leads in the UK multi-centre Genetics of Pre-Eclampsia (GOPEC) study. Although the first phase is complete, a variety of collaborations have developed from the study, and we plan to follow up the mothers and children in the future.
We are currently undertaking other long-term individual and collaborative (Universities of Leicester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Bern (Switzerland)) follow-up studies of mothers and babies who have been exposed to pre-eclampsia, and are showing that patterns of growth, steroid metabolism and markers of underlying disease differ from those in women who had normal pregnancies.
We are also undertaking studies of the function of the renin-angiotensin system (in collaboration with Cambridge University and the University of Newcastle, New South Wales (Australia)), the selenoproteins and placental ion channels in pathological (pre-eclamptic and growth-restricted) pregnancy.
New collaborations include trans abdominal fetal electrocardiography (with Electrical and Electronic Engineering), the study of obstetric cholestasis and participation in the international ”Preeclampsia Integrated Estimate of Risk (PIERS)” study.
5. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) research
6. Reproductive Imaging
At the Nottingham City Hospital, Professor Jim Thornton is running clinical trials in all areas of obstetrics and gynaecology and with Dr Pam Loughna has developed a research programme on fetal growth.
Using the very latest wide-bore MRI scanning equipment at the University of Nottingham experts in the School of Physics and Astronomy together with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust are leading a study to understand how the placenta ensures the right amount of oxygen and nutrients reach the baby in the womb.
Nottingham University Research and Treatment Unit in Reproduction (NURTURE) provides a high quality clinical service in assisted reproduction techniques and a teaching and research base in this area, under the direction of Mr. James Hopkisson (NHS) and Associate Professor Nick Raine-Fenning (UoN).
We have supported the creation of University spinout companies in gynaecology - N.G.D. Limited, Nottingham Gynaecological Devices. (Visit the company's website) and Nurture Fertility.
Our research is published in leading peer-reviewed journals. See the individual publication records of our members for details.