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Issue 471, 22 October 2001

Rescue research grant

A new study into the causes of premature births is to be carried out at Leeds, following a 30,000 grant from the Rescue Foundation. Over 9,000 babies are born each year in the LGI and St James's University Hospital, and of these more than one in ten are born before 37 weeks, and over 2% before 32 weeks.

The research, by consultant gynaecologist Nigel Simpson, focuses on the role of cytokines – chemical messengers in the body which are important in triggering the onset of labour. He hopes to determine why, in premature births, these substances are released before pregnancies have reached their full term.

Dr Simpson said: "Babies born prematurely are far more likely to develop serious health problems than full term babies, some of which can affect them for the rest of their lives. This research project should lead to a better understanding of the causes, enabling us to take steps to reduce the number of premature births in the future."

The money from the Rescue Foundation – a national charity which addresses the nature and causes of neurological disorders in children – will also fund two medical students to carry out a related BSc research project.

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