Manchester scientists open lab doors to family supporting vital diabetes and pregnancy research
Dr Jenny Myers, who is leading ground-breaking research supported by Diabetes UK, to help mothers-to-be with diabetes, welcomed a family from Crewe who have raised over £5,000 in support of the project, to her lab at Saint Mary’s Hospital.
Dr Myers and the team at the University of Manchester and Saint Mary’s Hospital gave the Horne family a tour of the clinic and laboratory where their research is taking place, to illustrate the impact the money they raised will potentially have for mothers-to-be with all types of pre-existing diabetes and their unborn children.
Emma Horne, 15, who raised the money along with the support of her family and friends as part of her year as Wistaston’s Rose Queen said: “I chose to support Diabetes UK because we not only have some close friends who have diabetes but my step-sister, Laura, developed Type 1 diabetes 10 years ago after the birth of her first child, and then last year my dad found out he was at risk of Type 2.
We wanted the money we raised to go towards Dr Myer’s research because Laura gave birth to her second child in August of this year and experienced some difficulties which were connected to her diabetes. It was great to come and see Dr Myers’ work and learn how it will help women with diabetes and their babies in the future.
Emma’s step-sister Laura Horne, 37, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes 10 years ago. Laura, who lives in Zelah in Cornwall, unfortunately experienced a miscarriage last year due to diabetes-related complications. When she became pregnant again, with her son Perran, she was given a diabetes midwife at her local hospital, which meant she had specialist care tailored to her condition. Laura says her care was second to none but that both she and her son still experienced complications before and after birth.
“I was supported by the team to manage my diabetes during pregnancy and was closely monitored. Perran’s growth was quite erratic during the first months of pregnancy and after being induced, his blood glucose levels were very low and he was slow to breastfeed. This led to jaundice and him being very ill. It was over a week before we could bring him home.”
Perran is now eight weeks old, healthy and growing well but Laura hopes that Dr Myer’s research may help other families to avoid the difficulties they have experienced.
In women with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, their babies can grow too small or too large during pregnancy, and this is thought to be linked to the mother’s blood glucose levels. This can result in complications including premature birth and caesarean sections but also to more serious and rarer problems. A recent audit on diabetes in pregnancy found that nearly half of babies born to women with Type 1 diabetes, and nearly a quarter born to women with Type 2 diabetes were larger than gestational age.¹
Dr Myers’ team are combining 3D ultrasound to measure the size of a baby’s thigh with continuous blood glucose monitoring and placental function markers to better understand the link between blood glucose and the baby’s growth. Dr Myers hopes that this novel approach will provide new insights into blood glucose control and healthy development of the baby during pregnancy. This new information will help support healthcare professionals looking after pregnant women with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and help prevent problems during pregnancy and birth.
Laura added: “We had an extremely difficult time after Perran was born but we are so grateful for the support we received and that he is now healthy and doing well. I hope that Dr Myer’s research will help mothers to be and their children in the future to avoid the suffering that diabetes-related complications during pregnancy can cause.”
Dr Jenny Myers, Senior Clinical Lecturer at The University of Manchester and Consultant Obstetrician at Saint Mary’s Hospital, said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to meet Emma and her family and show how their fundraising has supported research in Manchester.
The money they’ve raised enables us to carry out important research into understanding more about diabetes and pregnancy, which we hope will help us answer important questions about issues and complications and ultimately lead to improved care.
Dr Emily Burns, Acting Head of Research Communications at Diabetes UK said: “Managing diabetes every day can be challenging for anyone, but especially so for pregnant women. We need to ensure women receive the best possible care and support during their pregnancy to minimise the risk of complications that could affect both the mother and baby. We’re hopeful that Dr Myers’ Diabetes UK-funded research in this area will help us to achieve just that, and we’re delighted that Emma and her family have had the opportunity to see the research in action.
Without the generosity of Diabetes UK supporters like Emma, we wouldn’t be able to fund vital diabetes research to help improve the lives of people living with the condition across the UK – thank you.