Research & Innovation

New University College Dublin Centre Focused on Maternal and Fetal Health Research Launched

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New University College Dublin Centre Focused on Maternal and Fetal Health Research Launched

New University College Dublin Centre Focused on Maternal and Fetal Health Research Launched
March 21
10:26 2018

University College Dublin (UCD) has launched the new UCD Perinatal Research Centre based at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin. The aim of the Centre, within the UCD School of Medicine, is to coordinate national and international collaborative research in maternal and fetal health, including diabetes and nutrition in pregnancy, to improve the long-term health of mothers and their infants.

Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe (pictured), Chair and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at UCD’s School of Medicine, is the Director of the new Centre. Professor McAuliffe is an internationally recognised expert in pregnancy, maternal and fetal health, diabetes and nutrition in pregnancy.

Among the research studies being carried out at the Centre is the Pregnancy Exercise and Nutrition Study with Smartphone Application Support (PEARS), which involves over 500 women.

Women with a BMI of greater than 25 kg/m2 have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes and a low glycaemic index (GI) diet in pregnancy has been shown to lower glucose intolerance.

The PEARS study was designed to assess the impact of a lifestyle intervention package, consisting of a low GI diet and an exercise programme, with support provided by a smart phone app, on the incidence of gestational diabetes in an overweight and obese pregnant population.

Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe said: “I am delighted to announce the launch of the UCD Perinatal Research Centre. The overall aim of our research activities is to enable women to have the healthies pregnancies, and the healthiest babies, they can.”

She added, “The PEARS study is a great example of the work which will be carried out at the Centre and the findings of this study will be published shortly. The initial results have found that this intervention package reduced the incidence of babies born large, for gestational age, which is an extremely exciting finding. The novel addition of a specifically designed smart phone app holds considerable potential to alter maternal behaviour in a positive way.”

Professor Orla Feely, UCD Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact, said: “I welcome the launch of the new UCD Perinatal Research Centre and I wish Professor McAuliffe and her innovative research team every success in the future. The research which will be carried out at this Centre will have far-reaching impact in improving the long-term health of mothers and their infants, not only in Ireland but around the world.”

Professor Mary Day, CEO, Ireland East Hospital Group, said: “The impact of UCD Perinatal Research Centre will further the ambition of the Ireland East Hospital Group, in partnership with UCD, to develop as an academic health science centre which will harness the expertise location with our tertiary hospitals and UCD to address the current and further challenges addressing our population. This opportunity will deliver greater access for patients to leading edge research, translating into improved patient benefits.”

Other studies taking place at the UCD Perinatal Research Centre include the The ROLO Kids and ROLO PreTeen studies. These are longitudinal follow-up studies of the ROLO study, involving 800 pregnant women, which assessed the impact of a low GI diet on birth weight, maternal glucose intolerance and gestational weight gain.

Children from the ROLO study have been followed up, along with their mothers, at 6 month, 2 years, and 5 years of age, with the 10 year follow-up to start shortly, in order to determine whether maternal nutrition and low GI diet in pregnancy impacts on maternal and child health in the long term.

The research within the UCD Perinatal Research Centre is funded by grants from Health Research Board Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, the European Union, and the National Maternity Hospital Medical Fund.

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