Date Published: 10 March 2009
Advancing health across generations
University of Adelaide researchers are showing that factors during a mother's pregnancy can influence her daughter's reproductive and general health 30 years later, and are investigating potential ongoing effects on the following generation.
This research, involving 1000 Adelaide women aged 30-33, is part of the work of the University's new Robinson Institute, being launched tomorrow by Health Minister John Hill.
The Robinson Institute will focus on reproductive health and regenerative medicine, tackling big issues around improving health and preventing illness across generations - and aims to be world number one in its field.
Named after renowned obstetrician Professor Jeffrey Robinson CBE, Emeritus Professor at the University of Adelaide, the Robinson Institute combines the University's Research Centre for Reproductive Health, the Centre for Stem Cell Research and the Centre for the Early Origins of Health and Disease.
It brings together a unique blend of clinical and research leaders including over 200 research staff and students with wide-ranging expertise from epidemiology through to genetics and molecular biology.
Robinson Institute Director Professor Rob Norman says bringing together world-class researchers from such diverse disciplines will lead to significant medical advances around genetic and environmental influences on fertility and pregnancy, and the health of the next generation.
"Bringing together these big guns from many disciplines, with enormously different skills and access to randomised clinical trials and established research cohorts, is going to lead to rapid and significant health outcomes for our population," says Professor Norman.
The cross-generational study of over 1000 Adelaide women is being led by Associate Professor Michael Davies, Co-Director of the Centre for the Early Origins of Health and Disease.
Results to date indicate possible links between maternal smoking in pregnancy and obesity and reproductive dysfunction in the daughters 30 years later. The study has also identified links between maternal obesity and, in their daughters, obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome.
"We are looking at the current health status of the daughters and relating that back, through medical records, to the pregnancy conditions and environment of the mother," says Associate Professor Davies.
Researchers hope to extend the study by following up the mothers' current health and following the children's health.
"Part of the work of the Robinson Institute will be looking at how we take such research results and turn them into messages for the community so people can incorporate them into their daily lives," says Associate Professor Davies.
The Robinson Institute will be launched tomorrow evening at the Adelaide Convention
Speakers include Minister Hill, University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha with guest speaker Professor Roger Short, Honorary Professorial Fellow from the University of Melbourne's Faculty of Medicine.
The Robinson Institute will build on the University's strong international reputation in reproductive health. Its world-leading research over the past 50 years has increased understanding of human and animal reproduction and produced new infertility treatments and genetic diagnosis of embryos.
Emeritus Professor Jeffrey Robinson led this development from 1986 to 2006. In 2006 he was awarded one of Britain's highest awards, Commander of the British Empire (CBE), for his services to maternal and fetal health.