Fiona Brownfoot’s research
1) Treating preeclampsia with a medication
Preeclampsia is a really common and serious complication of pregnancy. It is caused by the release of toxins from the placenta into the blood stream and these inflict widespread injury to the mother’s organs. This leads to high blood pressure and multisystem organ injury including kidney problems and protein in the urine, liver abnormalities and blood clotting problems and can progress to seizures. Unfortunately preeclampsia claims the lives of 70,000 mothers and over half a million babies each year.
Fiona is part of a team of obstetricians and scientists focused on finding a medical treatment for preeclampsia. She has identified a number of common medications, metformin and sulfasalazine, safe in pregnancy, which may stabilise the disease process. So far Fiona and the team at the Translational Obstetrics Group have shown these medications can quench the secretion of toxins from the placenta and also reduce key aspects of blood vessel injury known to be present in patients with preeclampsia.
The team is now translating this concept and has commenced clinical trials in patients with preeclampsia in Australia and South Africa. If successful, this finding could change the way we manage preeclampsia to hopefully bring more mothers and babies home safely.
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2) Making labour safer
This project is at a very early stage and Fiona will be able to tell you more about this very soon.