This April, a group of four from the Cerebra team made an inspection visit to our Cerebra- supported Academic Chair in Barcelona. The team there is led by a dynamic obstetrician, Professor Eduard Gratacós, with a mission to discover ways to detect then prevent the hidden complications of pregnancy which can lead to brain damage in babies.
His department’s findings are widely published, and students from many countries come to Spain to learn the techniques developed there.
Our visit was to two sites, a maternity and neonatal clinical centre, and a Research lab, the BCNatal and Fetal Medicine Research Centre. Prof Gratacós and his team warmly welcomed us, and showed us the clinical and lab facilities. He took us through the aims of their long term research programme , now established for six years and in its second phase of research. Cerebra has supported this internationally recognised programme from the beginning. Our money enables research staff to be employed, initiate studies, then seek large grants for specific or high cost projects from international grant giving bodies. Without Cerebra’s seed funding this just wouldn’t be possible.
Scientists then gave us a series of presentations of their work: firstly, methods of identifying latent or hidden poor growth in unborn babies by studying their brain circulation , ” angiogenic factors ” in the mother during pregnancy, and placental form and function. These factors can now lead to identification before birth of babies at high risk of prenatal brain damage,and potentially enable intervention in those pregnancies before harm has been done.
There is also ongoing development of detailed, computer analysed study of the Fetal and neonatal brain using MRI imaging bio markers, again with the aim of identifying the at risk babies and intervening to help them.
We were given a lovely al fresco buffet to end our visit- overlooking the Barca football stadium which is next door- and met many of the young international trainees and researchers who come here to learn from this amazing department. Details of this research are presented at the Cerebra Annual Conference in London, so anyone who is interested can follow its progress.
Dr Imogen Morgan