pregnancy

A Perth researcher’s discovery of links between preeclampsia in pregnancy with lack of coordination for teenagers many years later could lead to better results for those kids.

Tegan Grace at the University of Notre Dame Australia correlated the motor skills of children at the ages of 10, 14, and 17, against their mothers’ health during pregnancy.

She found that those teenagers whose mothers had suffered preeclampsia had lower movement scores and may be more prone to developmental coordination disorder, an under-diagnosed condition thought to affect between five and 15 per cent of Australians.

Preeclampsia (also known as toxaemia) is characterised by high blood pressure and fluid retention, and is the most common pregnancy complication, affecting one in 20 births.Teagan Picture1

It is believed preeclampsia may affect the development of a part of the baby’s brain known as the cerebellum, which is responsible for the coordination, precision, and accuracy of movement, as well as language and attention.

Children with developmental coordination disorder can struggle with fine motor skills such as tying shoelaces, doing up buttons, or applying makeup.

Others have difficulty with gross motor skills including kicking, running, catching or throwing, and often avoid playing sport as a result.

But Tegan’s discovery of a link with preeclampsia will help identify children at risk of poor motor development and ensure they receive the support they need to thrive.

If movement and coordination problems are identified early, movement programs can be introduced to im
prove children’s motor skills and help them stay active throughout their lives.

Contact: Tegan Grace, University of Notre Dame, 07-9433 0239, tegan.grace@nd.edu.au

A compound produced by a pregnant lizard may provide important information on the origins and treatment of cancer in humans, according to zoologist Bridget Murphy from the University of Sydney, who discovered the protein, which is pivotal to the development of the lizard placenta.

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A young Melbourne researcher has discovered that a compound
which attracts white blood cells to areas of inflammation also plays an
important role in attracting human embryos to the womb, supporting the establishment of a healthy pregnancy.

Approximately 1 in 6 Australian couples will experience infertility. A large part of this may be due to faulty coordination and guidance of the embryo to the mother’s womb.

Natalie Hannan, of Prince Henry’s Institute, has found that the compound fractalkine is also produced by the uterus. To ensure a healthy pregnancy, the lining of the uterus must produce factors that attract the embryo to implant and begin to grow. Fractalkine may help the placenta to form and tap into the mother’s blood supply, by guiding the cells from which it develops to their right destination.

“In short, fractalkine plays an important role in the establishment of a healthy pregnancy,”  says Hannan of the Uterine Biology Group at Prince Henry’s whose work led to the unravelling of the compound’s role.

“The problem for many infertile couples lies in failure of the embryo to become properly embedded in the mother’s womb. A better understanding of this complicated process should advance treatments for infertility.

“Although infertility treatment has dramatically improved over the past few years, more than 75 per cent of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) attempts will fail. A large part of this may be due to faulty communication between the mother and the baby, involving compounds such as fractalkine.”

Hannan says that fractalkine is produced by the lining of the uterus at the time of implantation, when the embryo makes a special receptor that enables it to respond to fractalkine.

Using advanced technology that allows the movement of cells to be measured, Hannan discovered that human placental cells migrate towards fractalkine. Without fractalkine and many other similar compounds involved in the control of the essential processes of early pregnancy, implantation will fail.

“This exciting finding may improve IVF success rates by providing new targets for infertility treatment. It also aids our understanding of what makes a healthy pregnancy, which is ultimately a successful start to life,” Hannan says.

Natalie Hannan is one of 16 Fresh Scientists who are presenting their research to school students and the general public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program hosted by the Melbourne Museum and sponsored by the Federal and Victorian governments, New Scientist, The Australian and Quantum Communications Victoria.  One of the Fresh Scientists will win a trip to the UK courtesy of the British Council to present his or her work to the Royal Institution.