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Designing a diagnostic test for brain injuries in preterm babies

A Preterm Health project
Awarded $109,763 in funding
Over 3 years, starting in 2023

Designing a diagnostic test for brain injuries in preterm babies

Preterm babies (tamariki kokoti tau) are vulnerable to brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation during pregnancy or birth. 

In order to provide targeted care and treatment, and improve neurological outcomes for these babies we need to establish when the injury has occurred. However, early identification of brain injury can be difficult to establish, especially when one is dealing with very fragile preterm babies.

This study is based on the knowledge that during pregnancy, an unborn baby's brain cells release small hollow particles, called exosomes, which contain a variety of molecules, including proteins. Importantly, these exosomes can cross the placenta and enter the pregnant mother’s blood.

Associate Professor Mhoyra Fraser will investigate whether these exosomes might serve as biomarkers of preterm brain injury. 

The aim of the research is to develop a sensitive test, which can detect exosomes and their proteins in a mother’s blood during pregnancy and labour - and in umbilical cord blood - at the time of birth, to diagnose risk, and provide additional care to prevent or minimise injury in a timely manner.

The potential outcome is to provide better and more effective postnatal care.

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