Fetal responses to intra-uterine inflammation and the postnatal pulmonary consequences [ 2001 - 2003 ]

Also known as: The effects of inflammation on the fetus and its lungs.

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Prof John Newnham (Principal investigator) ,  A/Pr Timothy Moss Prof Richard Harding

Brief description There is increasing evidence that exposure of the unborn baby to infection and inflammation may be the cause of several important and disabling illnesses in later life, including long-term lung injury and brain damage. Hospital-based studies have shown that infants who go on to develop these diseases have signs of inflammation before, and soon after, birth. These studies in humans, however, have only shown associations between inflammation and later disease. Carefully controlled scientific experiments are required to show that inflammation actually causes damage and to allow us to find ways to prevent or cure the diseases that result from such injury. In 1998, using sheep, our research group discovered a way to produce inflammation in the fetus without endangering its wellbeing or causing early labour. The inflammation is caused by injecting a sterile bacterial cell wall preparation (endotoxin) into the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus. Using this model, we have found that an episode of inflammation before birth profoundly increases lung maturity, thus increasing the chances of survival if premature birth occurs. Based on our information from humans, we expect that if these lambs are allowed to survive past the first few days after birth, they will go on to develop chronic lung disease, and perhaps brain damage. This study will answer vital questions about the events that occur in the uterus and the fetus during periods of inflammation, and will then determine the long-term consequences in the weeks following birth. We expect that these lambs will have changes which at first will increase their chances of survival after birth, to be followed by chronic disability due to lung and brain damage. If confirmed, this finding will allow us to find treatments which can be applied before birth to ensure that children are less likely to be born with these disabling illnesses.

Funding Amount $AUD 347,036.72

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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