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Triple grant success for medical researchers

26 Nov 2009

University of Manchester researchers looking at potential new therapies for pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction have been awarded £2.4 million.

Pre-eclampsia – a group of conditions that result in high blood pressure in expectant mothers – can be fatal, while fetal growth restriction, where the baby does not grow properly in the womb, results in a greater risk of death or handicap.

The five-year programme grant from the Medical Research Council has been given to Professor Colin Sibley, Dr Sue Greenwood and Dr Mark Wareing in Manchester’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre based at St Mary’s Hospital, together with collaborators in Cambridge, Harwell and Alberta.

Professor Sibley said: “Pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction are diseases with many different causes and are the most dangerous pregnancy complications. There are currently no treatments available other than Caesarean section or inducing labour.

“Some of the causes of the conditions are similar to those in other conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and our research will determine whether the same drugs that are useful in those diseases can be used in treating pregnancy complications.”

A further £220,000 has been awarded by the Medical Research Council to fellow Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre scientists, Professor John Aplin and Dr Lynda Harris. Their research will focus on an enzyme called MMP-12 and whether blocking its actions may be a therapeutic intervention in complicated pregnancies.

Meanwhile, Dr Stuart Pickering-Brown and Professor David Mann, in the School of Translational Medicine, have been awarded £1 million of a £4.5 million programme grant by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council to identify genetic risk factors in motor neurone disease.

Working with colleagues at King’s College London, the Manchester researchers will investigate a gene called FUS – known to play a role in motor neurone disease – in dementia patients with frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD).

Dr Pickering-Brown said: “Recent research on motor neurone disease and frontotemporal dementia has shown that RNA-processing proteins are deposited in degenerating nerve cells and that rare mutations in three known genes, including FUS, cause a genetic form of these diseases.

“Using these discoveries, our team will model key aspects of the human disorders in transgenic mice to allow us to explore fundamental disease mechanisms and identify new therapeutic targets.”

Ends

Notes for editors

For further information contact:

Aeron Haworth
Media Relations
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8383
Mob: 07717 881563
Email: aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk