Prof Louise Kenny wins international award for INFANT work

7 Sep 2015

Prof Louise Kenny of University College Cork and INFANT. Image via Tomás Tyner/UCC

Co-director of the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research (INFANT) and Inspirefest 2015 speaker Prof Louise Kenny has picked up a major award from the American Heart Association (AHA).

The award for Prof Louise Kenny is a first for Irish researchers and is now also a first in pregnancy research, announced as a top paper for 2014 in the category of clinical science in Hypertension, the journal of the AHA.

Prof Kenny – professor of obstetrics at University College Cork, and based in Cork University Maternity Hospital – and INFANT have been gathering momentum nationally and internationally for their work in helping to reduce infant and mother fatality through research and innovation in perinatal healthcare.

The award from the AHA came about as a result of Prof Kenny’s work in developing a technique of screening for pregnancy endpoints (SCOPE).

This particular project is an international study that is aiming to develop screening tests that would be able to predict and prevent major complications experienced during the late pregnancy stage, such as pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is considered one of the most common, but deadly, potential dangers experienced prior to birth, and is believed to claim the lives of more than 70,000 women and over 500,000 infants every year.

“This is so important”

Using SCOPE, Prof Kenny and INFANT are working to develop an early pregnancy screening test that could identify women who are at greatest risk of pre-eclampsia.

If the possibility of pre-eclampsia has been established in a patient, the intensity of prenatal care can then be matched to each woman’s personal risk profile, while preventative therapies can be offered if they are needed.

Speaking of the importance of the study, Prof 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.”

INFANT and Prof Kenny have a follow-on study scheduled called IMPROvED which will recruit pregnant women in Ireland and Europe to form one of the world’s largest and most detailed ‘biobanks’, with samples given by the mums and babies.

“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,” Prof Kenny said. “Hopefully mothers and babies should benefit from the new screening test within the next five to ten years.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic