Researchers at the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory are doing vital work to discover more about the causes of babies being born early and finding better ways to care for them. The aim is to minimise some of the life-threatening complications that can arise for mothers and babies.
About the issue of preterm birth
Each year 15 million children globally are born less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy and this number is rising. Preterm birth is the single biggest cause of death and disability among newborn babies and it is a leading cause of neurodevelopmental impairment in childhood.
About the Laboratory
The Laboratory was set up at the University of Edinburgh by Theirworld (then known as PiggyBankKids) in 2004. It is hosted by the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health.
The Laboratory’s innovative work seeks to advance our understanding of what causes early labour, how we can develop treatments to prevent it and how we can better help newborn babies in those first crucial hours and days after birth.
It has created a team of world-class scientists and clinicians whose work is already having an impact on the lives of premature babies.
The team works closely with colleagues and peers in other research centres in the University of Edinburgh, including:
- Clinical Research Imaging Centre
- Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
- Child Life and Health
- Centre for Cardiovascular Science
Another key partner is NHS Lothian’s Simpson Centre for Reproductive Health, where 7000 babies are born every year. It is the regional centre for women with high-risk pregnancies and its Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is the regional centre for tertiary level care of preterm infants.
Projects at the Laboratory
The Laboratory's newest project is a pioneering study launched in November 2015. The Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort will follow 400 young people from infancy to adulthood and will help to reach a broader understanding of developmental problems as a result of being born too early or too small. This comprehensive study is a world first in investigating the long-term effects of preterm birth on the developing brain.
The Jennifer Brown Research Fund
The Laboratory is funded by the Jennifer Brown Research Fund, which also supports small innovative community-based schemes led by nurses and midwives to support families and babies.
The Fund was set up by Sarah and Gordon Brown in 2002 in memory of their daughter Jennifer, who died aged 10 days after being born seven weeks premature.