JMW's visit to the team researching how to save babies' lives at charity Tommy's

29th January 2019 Clinical Negligence

On Monday 28 January 2019, Elaine Roche, Laura Wilkinson and I visited the Tommy’s Manchester Centre Research Clinic at St Mary’s Hospital to learn more about what the team do. The visit was led by Professor Alexander Heazell, Professor of Obstetrics and Director of the Tommy’s research centre along with Dr Lynda Harris, Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceuticals.

The tour started with a group meeting in the lunch room. There were about 10 people attending the talk from different backgrounds, but everyone had the same aim of learning more about Tommy’s and what can be done to assist people going through the pain of losing a baby.

The work that the team does is centred on researching the causes of miscarriages, stillbirths and premature labour and then developing new methods of treatment. The team has been very successful so far and lowered the average number of stillbirths by 19% between 2012 and 2017 which is equivalent to 12 fewer babies dying each year. Alex and Lynda explained that the research centre is partly funded by Tommy’s along with other funding and grants.

Unfortunately, the funding received in this area is minimal despite the effect that miscarriages, stillbirths and premature labour has. Tommy’s are therefore funding four research centres in the UK in relation to reducing the risk of not carrying a healthy baby to term. The research team works alongside their dedicated clinical team, helping patients who have previously gone through a stillbirth, miscarriage or pre-term labour both emotionally and with any assistance needed to allow them to try for another baby.

Walking around the research centre it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into making the building multidisciplinary, allowing the clinical and research teams to work together seamlessly. The Tommy’s research clinic allows the research team to collect blood samples and placentas from the same building as soon as they are ready, allowing the team to perform their examinations straight away to get the best possible results.

Lynda explained that she is currently working on research which uses nanotechnology to create better medicines to treat pregnancy complications. The way that nanotechnology works is that it selectively delivers drugs to the uterus and placenta to enhance the effectiveness of the drug whilst ensuring that there are no potentially harmful side effects. The idea for such treatment came in part from research that has been done in relation to treating cancerous tumours whereby nanoparticles are used to solely target the tumour.

Other research currently being conducted at the clinic in Manchester includes whether beetroot juice can be used to reduce blood pressure in a pregnant woman with hypertension, what the role of placental blood vessels is in relation to growth restriction and stillbirth and the role of the immune system in rejecting the placenta.

It is clear that the research that Tommy’s is funding is invaluable and could not be done without the donations that it receives. JMW will be working closely with Tommy’s over the next year as one of our charities of the year to help raise awareness of the work that the charity does in addition to helping to raise much needed funds to allow the charity to continue funding such ground-breaking research. Please keep an eye out for the fundraising activities that the firm will be taking part in over the next year, any donations would be greatly appreciated.

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Kathryn Dyson is a Paralegallocated in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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