Over the last two years we have been very fortunate to be financially supported by the Revere Charitable Trust, who have given two separate donations to the group, worth £50000. The Revere Charitable Trust makes donations to a range of causes including a hospice, a disabled children’s trust, asthma and cancer research, international and national medical organisations, youth groups, environmental and cultural projects and animal welfare groups.
Our good fortune has made two lines of research possible. Most recently funding has enabled us to recruit a PhD student to work on the MAGIC project. MAGIC is a new cohort study of pregnant women in Nottingham. It aims to follow the women from mid-gestation to 1 year postpartum in order to investigate the factors which determine postpartum weight retention. This is a significant public health issue as pregnancy is a period where women are vulnerable to weight gain, contributing to risks in later pregnancy and to increased risk of overweight and obesity as they age. MAGIC
has been recruiting since the spring of 2013 and is now into the postnatal follow-up phase.
Our initial funding from the Revere Trust enabled us to establish a new suite of physiology equipment for the lab in 2011. At the centre of this is a wire myography system (pictured). This equipment has the ability to measure the contraction and relaxation of minute blood vessels. By passing wires which are thinner than a human hair through isolated arteries, we can suspend blood vessels between clamps mounted onto pressure transducers. These send signals to data collection modules which record tension on the blood vessels dozens of times per second. We can then look at the responses of the vessels to a variety of drugs and hormones. We are currently using the equipment to examine the effects of feeding low protein diets to rats and mice during pregnancy, upon the arterial function of their offspring. This work is informing our understanding of the processes which make the foetal period a stage when humans are vulnerable to effects of a poor diet upon their cardiovascular health.
Bethan Clifford, a postgraduate student in our unit, has been using the equipment extensively. She has demonstrated that the mesenteric arteries and aorta isolated from animals whose mothers were protein restricted in pregnancy are functionally different to vessels from the offspring of unrestricted animals. Bethan presented some of her initial findings to the Fetal and Neonatal Physiological Society meeting in Utrecht in July 2012.
In addition to the myography equipment, we purchased an organ bath system. This works on a similar principle and allows us to measure the contraction of much larger pieces of tissue such as uterine muscle. This currently contributes to Sarah McMullen and Matt Elmes research investigating how pregnant women’s fat intake effects length of labour and the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, such as caesarean section.