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Study identifies trigger for ‘head-to-tail’ axis development in human embryo

Latest Research in Cambridge - Thu, 17/06/2021 - 10:06

The second week of gestation represents a critical stage of embryo development, or embryogenesis. Failure of development during this time is one of the major causes of early pregnancy loss. Understanding more about it will help scientists to understand how it can go wrong, and take steps towards being able to fix problems.

The pre-implantation period, before the developing embryo implants into the mother’s womb, has been studied extensively in human embryos in the lab. On the seventh day the embryo must implant into the womb to survive and develop. Very little is known about the development of the human embryo once it implants, because it becomes inaccessible for study.

Pioneering work by Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and her team developed a technique, reported in 2016, to culture human embryos outside the body of the mother beyond implantation. This enabled human embryos to be studied up to day 14 of development for the first time. 

In a new study, the team collaborated with colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute to reveal what happens at the molecular level during this early stage of embryogenesis. Their findings provide the first evidence that a group of cells outside the embryo, known as the hypoblast, send a message to the embryo that initiates the development of the head-to-tail body axis. 

When the body axis begins to form, the symmetrical structure of the embryo starts to change. One end becomes committed to developing into the head end, and the other the ‘tail’. 

The new results, published today in the journal Nature Communications, reveal that the molecular signals involved in the formation of the body axis show similarities to those in animals, despite significant differences in the positioning and organisation of the cells.

“We have revealed the patterns of gene expression in the developing embryo just after it implants in the womb, which reflect the multiple conversations going on between different cell types as the embryo develops through these early stages,” said Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, and senior author of the report.

She added: “We were looking for the gene conversation that will allow the head to start developing in the embryo, and found that it was initiated by cells in the hypoblast – a disc of cells outside the embryo. They send the message to adjoining embryo cells, which respond by saying ‘OK, now we’ll set ourselves aside to develop into the head end.’”

The study identified the gene conversations in the developing embryo by sequencing the code in the thousands of messenger RNA molecules made by individual cells. They captured the evolving molecular profile of the developing embryo after implantation in the womb, revealing the progressive loss of pluripotency (the ability of the embryonic cells to give rise to any cell type of the future organism) as the fates of different cells are determined.

“Our goal has always been to enable insights to very early human embryo development in a dish, to understand how our lives start. By combining our new technology with advanced sequencing methods we have delved deeper into the key changes that take place at this incredible stage of human development, when so many pregnancies unfortunately fail,” said Zernicka-Goetz.

This research was funded by Wellcome. It was carried out with the oversight of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and with permission from a local research ethics committee.

Reference: Mole, M.A. et al: ‘A single cell characterisation of human embryogenesis identifies pluripotency transitions and putative anterior hypoblast centre.’ Nature Communications, June 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23758-w 

 

Scientists have identified key molecular events in the developing human embryo between days 7 and 14 - one of the most mysterious, yet critical, stages of our development. 

ReproductionMagdalena Zernicka-GoetzWellcome Sanger InstituteDepartment of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research InitiativeSchool of the Biological SciencesWe have revealed the patterns of gene expression in the developing embryo just after it implants in the wombMagdalena Zernicka-GoetzHuman embryo in the lab 9 days after fertilisation.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesNews type: News

Study identifies trigger for ‘head-to-tail’ axis development in human embryo

Research in Medicine - Thu, 17/06/2021 - 10:06

The second week of gestation represents a critical stage of embryo development, or embryogenesis. Failure of development during this time is one of the major causes of early pregnancy loss. Understanding more about it will help scientists to understand how it can go wrong, and take steps towards being able to fix problems.

The pre-implantation period, before the developing embryo implants into the mother’s womb, has been studied extensively in human embryos in the lab. On the seventh day the embryo must implant into the womb to survive and develop. Very little is known about the development of the human embryo once it implants, because it becomes inaccessible for study.

Pioneering work by Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and her team developed a technique, reported in 2016, to culture human embryos outside the body of the mother beyond implantation. This enabled human embryos to be studied up to day 14 of development for the first time. 

In a new study, the team collaborated with colleagues at the Wellcome Sanger Institute to reveal what happens at the molecular level during this early stage of embryogenesis. Their findings provide the first evidence that a group of cells outside the embryo, known as the hypoblast, send a message to the embryo that initiates the development of the head-to-tail body axis. 

When the body axis begins to form, the symmetrical structure of the embryo starts to change. One end becomes committed to developing into the head end, and the other the ‘tail’. 

The new results, published today in the journal Nature Communications, reveal that the molecular signals involved in the formation of the body axis show similarities to those in animals, despite significant differences in the positioning and organisation of the cells.

“We have revealed the patterns of gene expression in the developing embryo just after it implants in the womb, which reflect the multiple conversations going on between different cell types as the embryo develops through these early stages,” said Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, and senior author of the report.

She added: “We were looking for the gene conversation that will allow the head to start developing in the embryo, and found that it was initiated by cells in the hypoblast – a disc of cells outside the embryo. They send the message to adjoining embryo cells, which respond by saying ‘OK, now we’ll set ourselves aside to develop into the head end.’”

The study identified the gene conversations in the developing embryo by sequencing the code in the thousands of messenger RNA molecules made by individual cells. They captured the evolving molecular profile of the developing embryo after implantation in the womb, revealing the progressive loss of pluripotency (the ability of the embryonic cells to give rise to any cell type of the future organism) as the fates of different cells are determined.

“Our goal has always been to enable insights to very early human embryo development in a dish, to understand how our lives start. By combining our new technology with advanced sequencing methods we have delved deeper into the key changes that take place at this incredible stage of human development, when so many pregnancies unfortunately fail,” said Zernicka-Goetz.

This research was funded by Wellcome. It was carried out with the oversight of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, and with permission from a local research ethics committee.

Reference: Mole, M.A. et al: ‘A single cell characterisation of human embryogenesis identifies pluripotency transitions and putative anterior hypoblast centre.’ Nature Communications, June 2021. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-23758-w 

 

Scientists have identified key molecular events in the developing human embryo between days 7 and 14 - one of the most mysterious, yet critical, stages of our development. 

ReproductionMagdalena Zernicka-GoetzWellcome Sanger InstituteDepartment of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research InitiativeSchool of the Biological SciencesWe have revealed the patterns of gene expression in the developing embryo just after it implants in the wombMagdalena Zernicka-GoetzHuman embryo in the lab 9 days after fertilisation.


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesNews type: News

Teenagers at greatest risk of self-harming could be identified almost a decade earlier

Latest Research in Cambridge - Tue, 15/06/2021 - 07:00

The team, based at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, found that while sleep problems and low self-esteem were common risk factors, there were two distinct profiles of young people who self-harm – one with emotional and behavioural difficulties and a second group without those difficulties, but with different risk factors.

Between one in five and one in seven adolescents in England self-harms, for example by deliberately cutting themselves. While self-harm is a significant risk factor for subsequent suicide attempts, many do not intend suicide but face other harmful outcomes, including repeatedly self-harming, poor mental health, and risky behaviours like substance abuse. Despite its prevalence and lifelong consequences, there has been little progress in the accurate prediction of self-harm.

The Cambridge team identified adolescents who reported self-harm at age 14, from a nationally representative UK birth cohort of approximately 11,000 individuals. They then used a machine learning analysis to identify whether there were distinct profiles of young people who self-harm, with different emotional and behavioural characteristics. They used this information to identify risk factors from early and middle childhood. The results are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Because the data tracked the participants over time, the researchers were able to distinguish factors that appear alongside reported self-harm behaviour, such as low self-esteem, from those that precede it, such as bullying.

The team identified two distinct subgroups among young people who self-harm, with significant risk factors present as early as age five, nearly a decade before they reported self-harming. While both groups were likely to experience sleep difficulties and low self-esteem reported at age 14, other risk factors differed between the two groups.

The first group showed a long history of poor mental health, as well as bullying before they self-harmed. Their caregivers were more likely to have mental health issues of their own.

For the second group, however, their self-harming behaviour was harder to predict early in childhood. One of the key signs was a greater willingness to take part in risk-taking behaviour, which is linked to impulsivity. Other research suggests these tendencies may predispose the individual towards spending less time to consider alternate coping methods and the consequences of self-harm. Factors related to their relationships with their peers were also important for this subgroup, including feeling less secure with friends and family at age 14 and a greater concern about the feelings of others as a risk factor at age 11.

Stepheni Uh, a Gates Cambridge Scholar and first author of the study, said: “Self-harm is a significant problem among adolescents, so it’s vital that we understand the nuanced nature of self-harm, especially in terms of the different profiles of young people who self-harm and their potentially different risk factors.

“We found two distinct subgroups of young people who self-harm. The first was much as expected – young people who experience symptoms of depression and low self-esteem, face problems with their families and friends, and are bullied. The second, much larger group was much more surprising as they don’t show the usual traits that are associated with those who self-harm.”

The researchers say that their findings suggest that it may be possible to predict which individuals are most at risk of self-harm up to a decade ahead of time, providing a window to intervene.

Dr Duncan Astle said: “The current approach to supporting mental health in young people is to wait until problems escalate. Instead, we need a much better evidence base so we can identify who is at most risk of mental health difficulties in the future, and why. This offers us the opportunity to be proactive, and minimise difficulties before they start.

“Our results suggest that boosting younger children’s self-esteem, making sure that schools implement anti-bullying measures, and providing advice on sleep training, could all help reduce self-harm levels years later.

“Our research gives us potential ways of helping this newly-identified second subgroup. Given that they experience difficulties with their peers and are more willing to engage in risky behaviours, then providing access to self-help and problem-solving or conflict regulation programmes may be effective.”

Professor Tamsin Ford from the Department of Psychiatry added: “We might also help at-risk adolescents by targeting interventions at mental health leaders and school-based mental health teams. Teachers are often the first people to hear about self-harm but some lack confidence in how to respond. Providing them with training could make a big difference.”

The research was supported by the Gates Cambridge Trust, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the UK Medical Research Council.

Reference
Uh, S et al. Two pathways to self-harm in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 14 June 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.03.010

Researchers have identified two subgroups of adolescents who self-harm and have shown that it is possible to predict those individuals at greatest risk almost a decade before they begin self-harming.

mental healthChildrenrisk factorSpotlight on neuroscienceNeuroscienceDuncan AstleStepheni UhTamsin FordMedical Research CouncilGates Cambridge TrustTempleton World Charity FoundationMRC Cognition and Brain Sciences UnitDepartment of PsychiatrySchool of Clinical MedicineThe current approach to supporting mental health in young people is to wait until problems escalate. Instead, we need a much better evidence base so we can identify who is at most risk of mental health difficulties in the future, and whyDuncan AstleAdrien OlichonA man sitting in front of a screen


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public DomainNews type: News

Teenagers at greatest risk of self-harming could be identified almost a decade earlier

Research in Medicine - Tue, 15/06/2021 - 07:00

The team, based at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, found that while sleep problems and low self-esteem were common risk factors, there were two distinct profiles of young people who self-harm – one with emotional and behavioural difficulties and a second group without those difficulties, but with different risk factors.

Between one in five and one in seven adolescents in England self-harms, for example by deliberately cutting themselves. While self-harm is a significant risk factor for subsequent suicide attempts, many do not intend suicide but face other harmful outcomes, including repeatedly self-harming, poor mental health, and risky behaviours like substance abuse. Despite its prevalence and lifelong consequences, there has been little progress in the accurate prediction of self-harm.

The Cambridge team identified adolescents who reported self-harm at age 14, from a nationally representative UK birth cohort of approximately 11,000 individuals. They then used a machine learning analysis to identify whether there were distinct profiles of young people who self-harm, with different emotional and behavioural characteristics. They used this information to identify risk factors from early and middle childhood. The results are published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Because the data tracked the participants over time, the researchers were able to distinguish factors that appear alongside reported self-harm behaviour, such as low self-esteem, from those that precede it, such as bullying.

The team identified two distinct subgroups among young people who self-harm, with significant risk factors present as early as age five, nearly a decade before they reported self-harming. While both groups were likely to experience sleep difficulties and low self-esteem reported at age 14, other risk factors differed between the two groups.

The first group showed a long history of poor mental health, as well as bullying before they self-harmed. Their caregivers were more likely to have mental health issues of their own.

For the second group, however, their self-harming behaviour was harder to predict early in childhood. One of the key signs was a greater willingness to take part in risk-taking behaviour, which is linked to impulsivity. Other research suggests these tendencies may predispose the individual towards spending less time to consider alternate coping methods and the consequences of self-harm. Factors related to their relationships with their peers were also important for this subgroup, including feeling less secure with friends and family at age 14 and a greater concern about the feelings of others as a risk factor at age 11.

Stepheni Uh, a Gates Cambridge Scholar and first author of the study, said: “Self-harm is a significant problem among adolescents, so it’s vital that we understand the nuanced nature of self-harm, especially in terms of the different profiles of young people who self-harm and their potentially different risk factors.

“We found two distinct subgroups of young people who self-harm. The first was much as expected – young people who experience symptoms of depression and low self-esteem, face problems with their families and friends, and are bullied. The second, much larger group was much more surprising as they don’t show the usual traits that are associated with those who self-harm.”

The researchers say that their findings suggest that it may be possible to predict which individuals are most at risk of self-harm up to a decade ahead of time, providing a window to intervene.

Dr Duncan Astle said: “The current approach to supporting mental health in young people is to wait until problems escalate. Instead, we need a much better evidence base so we can identify who is at most risk of mental health difficulties in the future, and why. This offers us the opportunity to be proactive, and minimise difficulties before they start.

“Our results suggest that boosting younger children’s self-esteem, making sure that schools implement anti-bullying measures, and providing advice on sleep training, could all help reduce self-harm levels years later.

“Our research gives us potential ways of helping this newly-identified second subgroup. Given that they experience difficulties with their peers and are more willing to engage in risky behaviours, then providing access to self-help and problem-solving or conflict regulation programmes may be effective.”

Professor Tamsin Ford from the Department of Psychiatry added: “We might also help at-risk adolescents by targeting interventions at mental health leaders and school-based mental health teams. Teachers are often the first people to hear about self-harm but some lack confidence in how to respond. Providing them with training could make a big difference.”

The research was supported by the Gates Cambridge Trust, Templeton World Charity Foundation, and the UK Medical Research Council.

Reference
Uh, S et al. Two pathways to self-harm in adolescence. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry; 14 June 2021; DOI: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.03.010

Researchers have identified two subgroups of adolescents who self-harm and have shown that it is possible to predict those individuals at greatest risk almost a decade before they begin self-harming.

mental healthChildrenrisk factorSpotlight on neuroscienceNeuroscienceDuncan AstleStepheni UhTamsin FordMedical Research CouncilGates Cambridge TrustTempleton World Charity FoundationMRC Cognition and Brain Sciences UnitDepartment of PsychiatrySchool of Clinical MedicineThe current approach to supporting mental health in young people is to wait until problems escalate. Instead, we need a much better evidence base so we can identify who is at most risk of mental health difficulties in the future, and whyDuncan AstleAdrien OlichonA man sitting in front of a screen


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public DomainNews type: News

New risk calculator to help save many more lives from heart attack and stroke

Latest Research in Cambridge - Mon, 14/06/2021 - 00:12

The risk calculator, SCORE2, will be adopted by the upcoming European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, and enables doctors across Europe to predict who’s at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy.

The researchers say this new prediction tool will help save many more people across Europe from having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke, ultimately saving lives. People who are flagged as having an increased risk can be put on personalised preventative treatment, such a statins, or will receive lifestyle advice to lower their risk.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge played a leading role in a major collaborative effort involving around 200 investigators to develop SCORE2. Researchers across Europe analysed data from nearly 700,000 participants - mostly middle-aged - from 45 different studies. The tool has also been tailored for use in different European countries.

Participants had no prior history of heart and circulatory disease when they were recruited to the studies, and in the 10 years they were followed up, 30,000 had a ‘cardiovascular event’ – including fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke.

The risk tool was then statistically ‘recalibrated’, by using regional-specific cardiovascular and risk factor data from 10.8 million people, to more accurately estimate cardiovascular risk for populations split into four European risk regions. The tool uses known risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking.

This is a much-needed upgrade from the previous prediction tool that was developed using data before 1986 and underestimated the cardiovascular risk in some countries. The new SCORE2 risk calculator now accounts for current trends in heart and circulatory diseases, can predict both fatal and non-fatal conditions and is adaptable to countries with different levels of risk.

The researchers say that this upgrade will better estimate the cardiovascular risk amongst younger people, and will improve how treatment is tailored for older people and those in high-risk regions across Europe.

Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio at the University of Cambridge British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence, said: “This risk tool is much more powerful and superior than what doctors have used for decades. It will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases across Europe before they strike.”

Dr Lisa Pennells, also at Cambridge’s BHF Centre of Research Excellence, said: “This project was a highly collaborative effort that has brought together key experts and extensive data sources to develop improved risk prediction tools for cardiovascular disease for use across the UK and Europe.

“A key feature is that our calculators are relevant to current day rates of cardiovascular disease in different regions of Europe. Importantly, our methods allow them to be easily updated using routinely collected data in the future to ensure they stay relevant as trends in heart and circulatory diseases change.”

This study was carried out by the SCORE2 Working Group and the European Society of Cardiology Cardiovascular Risk Collaboration. It was supported by organisations including the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and Health Data Research UK.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the BHF and cardiologist, said: “Heart and circulatory diseases are the world’s biggest killers, impacting the lives of 7.6 million people across the UK alone.

“This new risk tool is a major advance and will save many more people from developing heart attacks, stroke and heart disease, all of which develop silently over many years and strike without warning. It will be the new gold standard for doctors to determine which patients are at the highest risk of these conditions, and enable tailored treatment and lifestyle advice to be given much earlier.”

Reference
SCORE2 risk prediction algorithms: revised models to estimate 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease in Europe. European Heart Journal; 14 June 2021; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehab309

Adapted from a press release from the British Heart Foundation

A new risk calculator will better predict people at high risk of heart and circulatory diseases years before they strike, and is ready for use across the UK and Europe, according to research published today in the journal European Heart Journal.

cardiovascular disease (CVD)heart attackstrokeriskPublic healthSpotlight on public healthEmanuele Di AngelantonioLisa PennellsBritish Heart FoundationSchool of Clinical MedicineDepartment of Public Health and Primary CareBHF Cambridge Centre for Cardiovascular Research ExcellenceCardiovascular Strategic Research InitiativeThis risk tool... will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases across Europe before they strikeEmanuele Di AngelantonioPexelsMan clutching his heart


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public DomainNews type: News

New risk calculator to help save many more lives from heart attack and stroke

Research in Medicine - Mon, 14/06/2021 - 00:12

The risk calculator, SCORE2, will be adopted by the upcoming European Guidelines on Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in Clinical Practice, and enables doctors across Europe to predict who’s at risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years with greater accuracy.

The researchers say this new prediction tool will help save many more people across Europe from having a potentially deadly heart attack or stroke, ultimately saving lives. People who are flagged as having an increased risk can be put on personalised preventative treatment, such a statins, or will receive lifestyle advice to lower their risk.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge played a leading role in a major collaborative effort involving around 200 investigators to develop SCORE2. Researchers across Europe analysed data from nearly 700,000 participants - mostly middle-aged - from 45 different studies. The tool has also been tailored for use in different European countries.

Participants had no prior history of heart and circulatory disease when they were recruited to the studies, and in the 10 years they were followed up, 30,000 had a ‘cardiovascular event’ – including fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke.

The risk tool was then statistically ‘recalibrated’, by using regional-specific cardiovascular and risk factor data from 10.8 million people, to more accurately estimate cardiovascular risk for populations split into four European risk regions. The tool uses known risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and smoking.

This is a much-needed upgrade from the previous prediction tool that was developed using data before 1986 and underestimated the cardiovascular risk in some countries. The new SCORE2 risk calculator now accounts for current trends in heart and circulatory diseases, can predict both fatal and non-fatal conditions and is adaptable to countries with different levels of risk.

The researchers say that this upgrade will better estimate the cardiovascular risk amongst younger people, and will improve how treatment is tailored for older people and those in high-risk regions across Europe.

Professor Emanuele Di Angelantonio at the University of Cambridge British Heart Foundation (BHF) Centre of Research Excellence, said: “This risk tool is much more powerful and superior than what doctors have used for decades. It will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases across Europe before they strike.”

Dr Lisa Pennells, also at Cambridge’s BHF Centre of Research Excellence, said: “This project was a highly collaborative effort that has brought together key experts and extensive data sources to develop improved risk prediction tools for cardiovascular disease for use across the UK and Europe.

“A key feature is that our calculators are relevant to current day rates of cardiovascular disease in different regions of Europe. Importantly, our methods allow them to be easily updated using routinely collected data in the future to ensure they stay relevant as trends in heart and circulatory diseases change.”

This study was carried out by the SCORE2 Working Group and the European Society of Cardiology Cardiovascular Risk Collaboration. It was supported by organisations including the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre and Health Data Research UK.

Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the BHF and cardiologist, said: “Heart and circulatory diseases are the world’s biggest killers, impacting the lives of 7.6 million people across the UK alone.

“This new risk tool is a major advance and will save many more people from developing heart attacks, stroke and heart disease, all of which develop silently over many years and strike without warning. It will be the new gold standard for doctors to determine which patients are at the highest risk of these conditions, and enable tailored treatment and lifestyle advice to be given much earlier.”

Reference
SCORE2 risk prediction algorithms: revised models to estimate 10-year risk of cardiovascular disease in Europe. European Heart Journal; 14 June 2021; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehab309

Adapted from a press release from the British Heart Foundation

A new risk calculator will better predict people at high risk of heart and circulatory diseases years before they strike, and is ready for use across the UK and Europe, according to research published today in the journal European Heart Journal.

cardiovascular disease (CVD)heart attackstrokeriskPublic healthSpotlight on public healthEmanuele Di AngelantonioLisa PennellsBritish Heart FoundationSchool of Clinical MedicineDepartment of Public Health and Primary CareBHF Cambridge Centre for Cardiovascular Research ExcellenceCardiovascular Strategic Research InitiativeThis risk tool... will fit seamlessly into current prevention programmes with substantial real-world impact by improving the prevention of cardiovascular diseases across Europe before they strikeEmanuele Di AngelantonioPexelsMan clutching his heart


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Public DomainNews type: News

England on track to achieve elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 as model shows sharp decrease in HIV incidence

Latest Research in Cambridge - Thu, 10/06/2021 - 09:20

To manage the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in England, enhanced testing and earlier treatment strategies were scaled-up between 2011 and 2015 and supplemented from 2015 by pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The researchers examined the effect of these interventions on the number of new infections and investigated whether the United Nations (UN) targets for HIV control and elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 might be within reach among MSM in England.

A complexity in this assessment is that HIV infections are not observed. Routine surveillance collects data on new HIV diagnoses, but trends in new diagnoses alone can be misleading as they can represent infections that occurred many years previously and depend on the testing behaviour of infected individuals.

To estimate new HIV infections among adult MSM (age 15 years and above) over a 10-year period between 2009 and 2018, the researchers used a novel statistical model that used data on HIV and AIDS diagnoses routinely collected via the national HIV and AIDS Reporting System in England, and knowledge on the progression of HIV. Estimated trends in new infections were then extrapolated to understand the likelihood of achieving the UN elimination target defined as less than one newly acquired infection per 10,000 MSM per year, by 2030.

The peak in the number of new HIV infections in MSM in England is estimated to have occurred between 2012 and 2013, followed by a steep decrease from 2,770 new infections in 2013 to 1,740 in 2015, and a further steadier decrease from 2016, down to 854. The decline was consistent across all age groups but was particularly marked in MSM aged 25–34 years, and slowest in those aged 45 years or older. Importantly, this decrease began before the widespread roll-out of PrEP in 2016, indicating the success of testing and treatment as infection prevention measures among MSM in England.

Through extrapolation, the researchers calculated a 40% likelihood of England reaching the UN elimination target by 2030 and identified relevant age-specific targeting of further prevention efforts (i.e., to MSM aged ≥45 years) to increase this likelihood.

Senior author, Professor Daniela De Angelis, Deputy Director of the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said: “This is very good news and suggests that prevention measures adopted in England from 2011 have been effective. With the rollout of PrEP, England looks on course to meet the goal of zero transmissions by 2030. Our study also shows the value of regular estimation of HIV incidence to recognise and respond appropriately to changes in the current downward trend. The challenge now is to achieve these reductions in all groups at risk for HIV acquisition.”

Valerie Delpech, Head of National HIV Surveillance at Public Health England, said: “We have made good progress towards ending HIV transmission by 2030 in England. Frequent HIV testing and the use of PrEP amongst people most at risk of HIV, together with prompt treatment among those diagnosed, are key to ending HIV transmission by 2030. 

“You can benefit from life-saving HIV treatments if you are diagnosed with HIV and it also means you cannot pass the virus on.

“HIV and STI tests are still available through sexual health clinics during the COVID pandemic. Many clinics offer online testing throughout the year – people can order tests on clinic websites, take them in the privacy of their own home, return by post and receive results via text, phone call or post.”

This research is funded by the UK Medical Research Council, UK National Institute of Health Research Health Protection Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, and Public Health England.

Reference
Brizzi, F et al. Tracking elimination of HIV transmission in men who have sex with men in England: a modelling study. Lancet HIV, 10 June 2021; DOI: 10.1016/ S2352-3018(21)00044-8

The annual number of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in England is likely to have fallen dramatically, from 2,770 in 2013 to 854 in 2018, showing elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 to be within reach – suggests work by researchers from the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England, published in The Lancet HIV.

Spotlight on public healthPublic healthInfectious diseasesHIV/AIDSDaniela De AngelisPublic Health EnglandMedical Research CouncilSchool of Clinical MedicineMedical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics UnitThis is very good news and suggests that prevention measures adopted in England from 2011 have been effectiveDaniela De AngelisJason#FreedomTo Know my HIV Status


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Attribution-NoncommericalNews type: News

England on track to achieve elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 as model shows sharp decrease in HIV incidence

Research in Medicine - Thu, 10/06/2021 - 09:20

To manage the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) in England, enhanced testing and earlier treatment strategies were scaled-up between 2011 and 2015 and supplemented from 2015 by pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). The researchers examined the effect of these interventions on the number of new infections and investigated whether the United Nations (UN) targets for HIV control and elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 might be within reach among MSM in England.

A complexity in this assessment is that HIV infections are not observed. Routine surveillance collects data on new HIV diagnoses, but trends in new diagnoses alone can be misleading as they can represent infections that occurred many years previously and depend on the testing behaviour of infected individuals.

To estimate new HIV infections among adult MSM (age 15 years and above) over a 10-year period between 2009 and 2018, the researchers used a novel statistical model that used data on HIV and AIDS diagnoses routinely collected via the national HIV and AIDS Reporting System in England, and knowledge on the progression of HIV. Estimated trends in new infections were then extrapolated to understand the likelihood of achieving the UN elimination target defined as less than one newly acquired infection per 10,000 MSM per year, by 2030.

The peak in the number of new HIV infections in MSM in England is estimated to have occurred between 2012 and 2013, followed by a steep decrease from 2,770 new infections in 2013 to 1,740 in 2015, and a further steadier decrease from 2016, down to 854. The decline was consistent across all age groups but was particularly marked in MSM aged 25–34 years, and slowest in those aged 45 years or older. Importantly, this decrease began before the widespread roll-out of PrEP in 2016, indicating the success of testing and treatment as infection prevention measures among MSM in England.

Through extrapolation, the researchers calculated a 40% likelihood of England reaching the UN elimination target by 2030 and identified relevant age-specific targeting of further prevention efforts (i.e., to MSM aged ≥45 years) to increase this likelihood.

Senior author, Professor Daniela De Angelis, Deputy Director of the MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said: “This is very good news and suggests that prevention measures adopted in England from 2011 have been effective. With the rollout of PrEP, England looks on course to meet the goal of zero transmissions by 2030. Our study also shows the value of regular estimation of HIV incidence to recognise and respond appropriately to changes in the current downward trend. The challenge now is to achieve these reductions in all groups at risk for HIV acquisition.”

Valerie Delpech, Head of National HIV Surveillance at Public Health England, said: “We have made good progress towards ending HIV transmission by 2030 in England. Frequent HIV testing and the use of PrEP amongst people most at risk of HIV, together with prompt treatment among those diagnosed, are key to ending HIV transmission by 2030. 

“You can benefit from life-saving HIV treatments if you are diagnosed with HIV and it also means you cannot pass the virus on.

“HIV and STI tests are still available through sexual health clinics during the COVID pandemic. Many clinics offer online testing throughout the year – people can order tests on clinic websites, take them in the privacy of their own home, return by post and receive results via text, phone call or post.”

This research is funded by the UK Medical Research Council, UK National Institute of Health Research Health Protection Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, and Public Health England.

Reference
Brizzi, F et al. Tracking elimination of HIV transmission in men who have sex with men in England: a modelling study. Lancet HIV, 10 June 2021; DOI: 10.1016/ S2352-3018(21)00044-8

The annual number of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in England is likely to have fallen dramatically, from 2,770 in 2013 to 854 in 2018, showing elimination of HIV transmission by 2030 to be within reach – suggests work by researchers from the MRC Biostatistics Unit at the University of Cambridge and Public Health England, published in The Lancet HIV.

Spotlight on public healthPublic healthInfectious diseasesHIV/AIDSDaniela De AngelisPublic Health EnglandMedical Research CouncilSchool of Clinical MedicineMedical Research Council (MRC) Biostatistics UnitThis is very good news and suggests that prevention measures adopted in England from 2011 have been effectiveDaniela De AngelisJason#FreedomTo Know my HIV Status


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: Attribution-NoncommericalNews type: News

People more afraid of catching COVID-19 are more judgemental, study finds

Latest Research in Cambridge - Wed, 09/06/2021 - 00:01

The researchers say their findings are evidence that our morality is shaped by various emotions and intuitions, of which concerns about health and safety are prominent. This means that our judgements of wrongdoing are not completely rational.

The study, published today in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, did not focus on behaviours relating to the pandemic itself - such as social distancing - but considered a wide range of moral transgressions.

Between March and May 2020, over 900 study participants in the USA were presented with a series of scenarios and asked to rate them on a scale from ‘not at all wrong’ to ‘extremely wrong’. This enabled the researchers to measure participants’ responses across five key moral principles: harm, fairness, in-group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity.

Example scenarios include one of loyalty: ‘You see a man leaving his family business to go work for their main competitor’; and one of fairness: ‘You see a tenant bribing a landlord to be the first to get their apartment repainted.’

People who were more worried about catching COVID-19 judged the behaviours in these scenarios to be more wrong than those who were less worried.

“There is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemic,” said Professor Simone Schnall in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, senior author of the report.

She added: “These influences on judgements happen outside of our conscious awareness. If we feel that our wellbeing is threatened by the coronavirus, we are also likely to feel more threatened by other people’s wrong-doing – it’s an emotional link.”

The findings contribute to a growing body of evidence of a link between physical disgust – an emotion designed to keep us from harm – and moral condemnation. 

“Disgust is an emotion we think evolved to protect us from harm – avoiding a filthy toilet that might contaminate us with disease, for example. But now we apply it to social situations too, and can feel physically jeopardised by other people’s behaviour,” said Robert Henderson, a PhD student and Gates Scholar in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and first author of the report.

He added: “The link between being concerned about COVID-19 and moral condemnation is about risks to wellbeing. If you’re more conscious of health risks, you’re also more conscious of social risks – people whose behaviour could inflict harm upon you.”

This research was funded by the Gates Foundation Cambridge and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

Reference
Henderson, R.K., & Schnall, S. ‘Disease and Disapproval: COVID-19 Concern is Related to Greater Moral Condemnation.’ Evolutionary Psychology. May 2021. DOI: 10.1177/14747049211021524

Researchers studying how we make moral judgements found that people more concerned about catching COVID-19 were more disapproving of the wrong-doings of others, whatever they were doing wrong.

CoronavirusCOVID-19Simone SchnallRobert HendersonDepartment of PsychologyCambridge Infectious DiseasesJesus CollegeSchool of the Biological SciencesThere is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemicSimone SchnallCreative Commons Attribution 2.0Legal Gavel


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: AttributionNews type: News

People more afraid of catching COVID-19 are more judgemental, study finds

Research in Medicine - Wed, 09/06/2021 - 00:01

The researchers say their findings are evidence that our morality is shaped by various emotions and intuitions, of which concerns about health and safety are prominent. This means that our judgements of wrongdoing are not completely rational.

The study, published today in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, did not focus on behaviours relating to the pandemic itself - such as social distancing - but considered a wide range of moral transgressions.

Between March and May 2020, over 900 study participants in the USA were presented with a series of scenarios and asked to rate them on a scale from ‘not at all wrong’ to ‘extremely wrong’. This enabled the researchers to measure participants’ responses across five key moral principles: harm, fairness, in-group loyalty, deference to authority, and purity.

Example scenarios include one of loyalty: ‘You see a man leaving his family business to go work for their main competitor’; and one of fairness: ‘You see a tenant bribing a landlord to be the first to get their apartment repainted.’

People who were more worried about catching COVID-19 judged the behaviours in these scenarios to be more wrong than those who were less worried.

“There is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemic,” said Professor Simone Schnall in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, senior author of the report.

She added: “These influences on judgements happen outside of our conscious awareness. If we feel that our wellbeing is threatened by the coronavirus, we are also likely to feel more threatened by other people’s wrong-doing – it’s an emotional link.”

The findings contribute to a growing body of evidence of a link between physical disgust – an emotion designed to keep us from harm – and moral condemnation. 

“Disgust is an emotion we think evolved to protect us from harm – avoiding a filthy toilet that might contaminate us with disease, for example. But now we apply it to social situations too, and can feel physically jeopardised by other people’s behaviour,” said Robert Henderson, a PhD student and Gates Scholar in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology and first author of the report.

He added: “The link between being concerned about COVID-19 and moral condemnation is about risks to wellbeing. If you’re more conscious of health risks, you’re also more conscious of social risks – people whose behaviour could inflict harm upon you.”

This research was funded by the Gates Foundation Cambridge and the Bennett Institute for Public Policy.

Reference
Henderson, R.K., & Schnall, S. ‘Disease and Disapproval: COVID-19 Concern is Related to Greater Moral Condemnation.’ Evolutionary Psychology. May 2021. DOI: 10.1177/14747049211021524

Researchers studying how we make moral judgements found that people more concerned about catching COVID-19 were more disapproving of the wrong-doings of others, whatever they were doing wrong.

CoronavirusCOVID-19Simone SchnallRobert HendersonDepartment of PsychologyCambridge Infectious DiseasesJesus CollegeSchool of the Biological SciencesThere is no rational reason to be more judgemental of others because you are worrying about getting sick during the pandemicSimone SchnallCreative Commons Attribution 2.0Legal Gavel


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: AttributionNews type: News

Scientists can predict which women will have serious pregnancy complications

Latest Research in Cambridge - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 17:01

Nearly all of the organ systems of the mother’s body need to alter their function during pregnancy so that the baby can grow. If the mother’s body cannot properly adapt to the growing baby this leads to major and common issues including fetal growth restriction, fetal over-growth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia – a life-threatening high blood pressure in the mother. 

Many of these complications lead to difficult labours for women with more medical intervention and lifelong issues for the baby including diabetes, heart issues and obesity. 

Pregnancy disorders affect around one in ten pregnant women, but current methods to diagnose them are not sensitive or reliable enough to identify all at-risk pregnancies.

Now scientists have found a way to test hormone levels in the placenta to predict which women will have serious pregnancy complications. Their study is published today in the journal Nature Communications Biology

“We found that hormonal biomarkers from the placenta could indicate which women would have pregnancy complications,” said Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, who led the study.

She added: “We found that these hormonal biomarkers are present from the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a highly important finding given that pregnancy disorders affect around one in ten pregnant women and are often diagnosed too late, when the complications are already wreaking havoc on the mother’s body and the fetal development.”

Using mouse models, researchers looked at the proteins made by the placenta and compared them to blood samples from women who had uneventful pregnancies and those who developed gestational diabetes. The team developed new methods to isolate and study the endocrine cells in the mouse placenta because these cells are responsible for secreting hormones during pregnancy. 

They profiled the placenta to identify the hormones that are secreted to create a comprehensive map of proteins in the mysterious organ. The mouse model map of hormonal proteins from the placenta was then compared with datasets from studies of the human placenta and pregnancy outcomes and researchers discovered a lot of biological overlap. 

Dr Sferruzzi-Perri said: “We found that around a third of the proteins we identified changed in women during pregnancies with disorders. Using a small study to test if these placental proteins will have some clinical value, we also discovered that abnormal levels of hormones were present in the mother’s blood as early as the first trimester – week 12 of gestation – in women who developed gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication usually diagnosed at 24-28 weeks. 

“We also identified several specific transcription factors – proteins within the cell that turn on or off genes – that are likely to govern the production of placental hormones which have important implications for understanding how we may improve pregnancy outcomes.”

The scientists explored whether these genetic biomarkers were detectable during pregnancy and used a study that tracked pregnancy outcomes in women at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. They found that blood samples showed these biomarkers in early pregnancy which could lead to earlier diagnosis of complications allowing treatment to begin more quickly.

Dr Claire Meek, a diabetes in pregnancy physician and researcher at Addenbrooke’s, said: “This pregnancy-induced form of diabetes causes accelerated growth of the baby and complications at the time of delivery. Unfortunately, some women already have signs of a big baby at the time of diagnosis at 28 weeks. This new test might be able to identify gestational diabetes earlier in pregnancy, providing opportunities to prevent the disease, or to protect mums and babies from the most harmful complications.” 

Dr Sferruzzi-Perri said: “This work provides new hope that a better understanding of the placenta will result in safer, healthier pregnancies for mothers and babies. Our team is now working to assess whether these discoveries could improve clinical care in future, either through earlier diagnosis or to provide new opportunities to treat these pregnancy complications by targeting the placenta.”

The placenta is a complex biological organ. It forms and grows from the fertilised egg, and attaches to the wall of the uterus. It allows nutrients and oxygen to flow from mother to baby, and removes fetal waste products. Despite its importance, the placenta is a very misunderstood organ and is notoriously difficult to study in pregnant women. But its ability to function properly is vital as it impacts on pregnancy outcomes and the lifelong health of mother and child.

The placenta develops during pregnancy and connects the developing baby to the mother. It serves as the lungs, kidneys, gut and liver for growing babies and carries oxygen and nutrients to the fetus whilst secreting hormones and discarding waste.

Reference

Napso, T. et al. Placental secretome characterization identified candidates for pregnancy complications. Nature Communications Biology, June 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02214-x

Adapted from a press release by St John's College, Cambridge

 

Women who will develop potentially life-threatening disorders during pregnancy can be identified early when hormone levels in the placenta are tested, a new study has shown.

ReproductionAmanda Sferruzzi-PerriTina NapsoAddenbrooke's HospitalDepartment of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research InitiativeSt John's CollegeSchool of the Biological SciencesThis work provides new hope that a better understanding of the placenta will result in safer, healthier pregnancies for mothers and babies.Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri Fishman64 at Shutterstock.comPregnancy scan


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: AttributionNews type: News

Scientists can predict which women will have serious pregnancy complications

Research in Medicine - Tue, 08/06/2021 - 17:01

Nearly all of the organ systems of the mother’s body need to alter their function during pregnancy so that the baby can grow. If the mother’s body cannot properly adapt to the growing baby this leads to major and common issues including fetal growth restriction, fetal over-growth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia – a life-threatening high blood pressure in the mother. 

Many of these complications lead to difficult labours for women with more medical intervention and lifelong issues for the baby including diabetes, heart issues and obesity. 

Pregnancy disorders affect around one in ten pregnant women, but current methods to diagnose them are not sensitive or reliable enough to identify all at-risk pregnancies.

Now scientists have found a way to test hormone levels in the placenta to predict which women will have serious pregnancy complications. Their study is published today in the journal Nature Communications Biology

“We found that hormonal biomarkers from the placenta could indicate which women would have pregnancy complications,” said Dr Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, who led the study.

She added: “We found that these hormonal biomarkers are present from the first trimester of pregnancy. This is a highly important finding given that pregnancy disorders affect around one in ten pregnant women and are often diagnosed too late, when the complications are already wreaking havoc on the mother’s body and the fetal development.”

Using mouse models, researchers looked at the proteins made by the placenta and compared them to blood samples from women who had uneventful pregnancies and those who developed gestational diabetes. The team developed new methods to isolate and study the endocrine cells in the mouse placenta because these cells are responsible for secreting hormones during pregnancy. 

They profiled the placenta to identify the hormones that are secreted to create a comprehensive map of proteins in the mysterious organ. The mouse model map of hormonal proteins from the placenta was then compared with datasets from studies of the human placenta and pregnancy outcomes and researchers discovered a lot of biological overlap. 

Dr Sferruzzi-Perri said: “We found that around a third of the proteins we identified changed in women during pregnancies with disorders. Using a small study to test if these placental proteins will have some clinical value, we also discovered that abnormal levels of hormones were present in the mother’s blood as early as the first trimester – week 12 of gestation – in women who developed gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication usually diagnosed at 24-28 weeks. 

“We also identified several specific transcription factors – proteins within the cell that turn on or off genes – that are likely to govern the production of placental hormones which have important implications for understanding how we may improve pregnancy outcomes.”

The scientists explored whether these genetic biomarkers were detectable during pregnancy and used a study that tracked pregnancy outcomes in women at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. They found that blood samples showed these biomarkers in early pregnancy which could lead to earlier diagnosis of complications allowing treatment to begin more quickly.

Dr Claire Meek, a diabetes in pregnancy physician and researcher at Addenbrooke’s, said: “This pregnancy-induced form of diabetes causes accelerated growth of the baby and complications at the time of delivery. Unfortunately, some women already have signs of a big baby at the time of diagnosis at 28 weeks. This new test might be able to identify gestational diabetes earlier in pregnancy, providing opportunities to prevent the disease, or to protect mums and babies from the most harmful complications.” 

Dr Sferruzzi-Perri said: “This work provides new hope that a better understanding of the placenta will result in safer, healthier pregnancies for mothers and babies. Our team is now working to assess whether these discoveries could improve clinical care in future, either through earlier diagnosis or to provide new opportunities to treat these pregnancy complications by targeting the placenta.”

The placenta is a complex biological organ. It forms and grows from the fertilised egg, and attaches to the wall of the uterus. It allows nutrients and oxygen to flow from mother to baby, and removes fetal waste products. Despite its importance, the placenta is a very misunderstood organ and is notoriously difficult to study in pregnant women. But its ability to function properly is vital as it impacts on pregnancy outcomes and the lifelong health of mother and child.

The placenta develops during pregnancy and connects the developing baby to the mother. It serves as the lungs, kidneys, gut and liver for growing babies and carries oxygen and nutrients to the fetus whilst secreting hormones and discarding waste.

Reference

Napso, T. et al. Placental secretome characterization identified candidates for pregnancy complications. Nature Communications Biology, June 2021. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42003-021-02214-x

Adapted from a press release by St John's College, Cambridge

 

Women who will develop potentially life-threatening disorders during pregnancy can be identified early when hormone levels in the placenta are tested, a new study has shown.

ReproductionAmanda Sferruzzi-PerriTina NapsoAddenbrooke's HospitalDepartment of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience (PDN)Cambridge Reproduction Strategic Research InitiativeSt John's CollegeSchool of the Biological SciencesThis work provides new hope that a better understanding of the placenta will result in safer, healthier pregnancies for mothers and babies.Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri Fishman64 at Shutterstock.comPregnancy scan


The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Images, including our videos, are Copyright ©University of Cambridge and licensors/contributors as identified.  All rights reserved. We make our image and video content available in a number of ways – as here, on our main website under its Terms and conditions, and on a range of channels including social media that permit your use and sharing of our content under their respective Terms.

YesLicense type: AttributionNews type: News