Research on pre-eclampsia has earned researchers based at UCC and the Cork University Maternity Hospital a major award from the American Heart Association.
The international award is a first for Irish researchers and also a first for pregnancy research.
The scientific study of the life-threatening complication of late pregnancy has been announced as top paper for 2014 in the category of clinical science in Hypertension, the journal of the American Heart Association.
The research is led in Ireland by Louise Kenny, Professor of Obstetrics at University College Cork, Director of the INFANT (The Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translation Research) Centre and Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital.
Professor Louise Kenny, UCC. Pic: Tomás Tyner, UCC.
The SCOPE (Screening for Pregnancy Endpoints) project is an international study that aims to develop screening tests to predict and prevent the major complications of late pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia claims the lives of more than 70,000 women and over 500,000 infants every year.
Professor Louise Kenny said: "It’s about saving the lives of mothers and their babies: that’s why we get up every morning, that’s why this is so important."
The SCOPE study is aiming to develop a test that could identify women who are at greatest risk.
Prof. Kenny said: "Our goal is to save the lives of affected mums and babies by reducing and eventually preventing the life-threatening complications associated with pre-eclampsia."
A follow-on study called IMPROvED is recruiting pregnant women in the Cork University Maternity Hospital and across Europe, contributing to one of the world’s largest and most detailed “biobanks” with samples given by the mums and babies.
She said: "The next phase will be to combine clinical information and our pregnancy specific biomarkers to develop the most effective system for predicting problems in pregnancy.
"The final step is to turn this into a prototype blood test. Hopefully mothers and babies should benefit from the new screening test within the next five to ten years."
The researchers are inviting first-time mums, who are less than 17 weeks pregnant, to get involved in the study by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.