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Big Boost For Premature Baby Research

Big Boost For Premature Baby Research

The Free Radical Research Group at the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences has won a major half million dollar grant as part of a new Centre of Research Excellence award.

The Natonal Centre for Growth and Development will be formed from a consortium of researchers at Auckland and Otago Medical Schools, including the Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and the Veterinary School at Massey University. Research will be focussed on the biology of growth and development in humans and sheep.

In particular, the researchers want to understand why premature babies can suffer from brain and lung damage and also the long term health effects of premature birth. They will also investigate diseases of brain development and degeneration. These include Alzheimer's Diseases and Multiple Sclerosis.

The Christchurch scientists, headed by Professor Christine Winterbourn from the Free Radical Research Group, will apply their internationally renowned expertise in the biochemistry of free radicals to investigate how the brain gets damaged in these diseases and how they impact on a wide range of fetal and childhood conditions. Funding will enable the researchers at the School of Medicine to develop new ways of looking for brain damage over the next five years.

This information will be vital for the development of treatments aimed at limiting degeneration of the brain, prevention of premature birth and consequential diseases in infancy and later life. It is also expected that this research will lessen the substantial social and economic costs of premature birth in humans. It is likely to have a major impact on the agricultural economy, which is reported to lose $100 million annually to premature deaths of lambs.

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