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New Sensor Provides Early Warning of Fetal Hypoxia - Transcript


GVs            Mother and New Born child in hospital
                    Midwife with mother and child

Guide Voice: There’s something special about the sight of a mother and her new-born baby. In this case, both mother and baby are happy and healthy following a straightforward pregnancy and birth. But some are not so lucky.

Fetal Hypoxia, a lack of oxygen going to the brain of the unborn child, carries risks both for the baby and the mother. In the child there is the risk of brain damage through oxygen starvation and doctors will often proceed quickly to an emergency caesarean section to protect the child – which can put the mother’s health at risk!

00:30  SOT: Professor Nicholas Dale, University of Warwick“In England around 6% of babies are born which have suffered either hypoxia in the womb or asphyxia during birth. And that would suggest that our methods for detecting that and responding to that are inadequate. That we dont detect enough. If hypoxia is sufficiently serious that can result in lasting brain damage. So babies may miss their developmental mile stones, they may develop with lower IQ, there is even some thought that some forms of autism may be related to fetal hypoxia.”

01:12            GVs University of Warwick exterior
                      ‘BioMedical Research Institute’ sign
                      Prof Dale and colleague (Bruno Frenguelli) in the laboratory

Guide Voice: Professor Dale and his team at the University of Warwick in the West Midlands, at the heart of the UK, working with the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, are developing new means of testing for the threat of fetal hypoxia that may significantly reduce the health risks to both mother and baby.

They’ve come up with new biosensors for the measurement of purines which could be key in detecting the risk of hypoxia in an unborn child.

Hypoxanthine is a purine found in the blood and research has shown that an unborn child with more than 15 micromoles of this chemical per litre of their blood is at severe risk of fetal hypoxia.

01:51            GVs – Exterior of Hospital
                      People in hospital corridors
                      Prof. Dale and Manu Vatish in the hospital looking at the new probes and discussing their use.
                      c.u. bio-sensors

Guide Voice: Existing tests for fetal hypoxia are slow, often leading doctors to perform emergency caesarean section rather than risk brain damage to the child – but Professor Dale and his researchers have devised their own fine tuned probes that could be used in situ and deliver immediate test results, allowing Doctors in the delivery room to make better informed decisions on the treatment of their patients.

02:20  SOT: - Manu Vatish, Obstetrics Senior Lecturer, University of Warwick and the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust“The use of Hypoxanthine as a measurement of fetal hypoxia has two significant advantages. Firstly it’s reproduceable, reliable and robust, which is far superior to the current methods that we have for measuring fetal hypoxia; and secondly, we can obtain the results in a much more rapid time frame and I can’t stress enough how important it is for the fetal outcome that we can get the results often as much as eight minutes earlier.”

02:42            GVs – Bruno Frenguelli conducting experiment on brain tissue

Guide Voice: For now, the research is focused on the problems of predicting risk of fetal hypoxia – but the longer term aims of the research also looks at life at the other end of the human scale.

As we get older we are at increased risk of suffering from strokes, a major cause of death for older people and one of the main causes of severe disability. Professor Dale believes these new biosensors will be able to identify potential high risk patients and help to establish the best treatment for them.

03:11 - SOT: Prof. Dale – “The other aspect that we would like to apply it to is almost at the other end of the human life - which is when people get in the situation when they may suffer from a stroke, which is generally later on in life. We think probably the hypoxanthine sensors will not be sufficient to give good diagnosis of stroke, but we think if we measured all of the purines in a multi-sensor device, possibly with one or two other analytes, we could have a bio-marker of stroke, which will allow the clinician, even the paramedic treating the person who suddenly collapsed, to diagnose the stroke and, with any luck, to diagnose which particular type of stroke, based on the abnormal levels of these substances in the blood.

03:56            GVs   Mother and child
                      c.u. child

Guide Voice: But any such developments are for the future. Right now the researchers are concentrating on ensuring that all new born babies are as healthy as this one.

04:06 - SOT: Manu Vatish“In the long term I can see real genuine benefits to fetal outcome to Mothers and their babies in every obstetric unit in the UK, throughout Great Britain and eventually, and ultimately, the world."

04:19             End

This material is available for use without restriction for up to 28 days after the feed date, Tuesday 14 February 2006. For use beyond this period, please contact Research-TV on +44 (0) 20 7004 7130 or email

Page contact: Shuehyen Wong Last revised: Tue 14 Feb 2006
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