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Researchers study why being overweight in pregnancy raises child’s asthma risk

New research in Southampton will delve into the underlying causes of asthma.

The study will explore whether inflammation in the womb influences whether the baby will later develop asthma.

Dr Hans Michael Haitchi will co-lead the study from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and University of Southampton.

He will work with the University's Dr Alexandra Kermack and Dr Rob Ewing. The research is also supported by Dr Matthew Coleman from the Princess Anne Hospital.

Pro-inflammatory environment

Children whose mother has allergic asthma and is overweight during pregnancy are more likely to develop asthma. The reason for this is not fully understood.

In this study, researchers seek to determine whether the underlying cause for this is a pro-inflammatory environment in the womb.

Women having an elective caesarean birth at the Princess Anne Hospital will be asked if they would like to take part. If they agree, the researchers will collect samples of the fluid that surrounds the baby in the womb (amniotic fluid), cord blood and placenta during the birth.

Scientists will measure asthma-related inflammatory and immune markers in these samples. They will then analyse how the mother having asthma and being overweight affects these.

Ongoing pregnancy research

The study is part of the Maternal Environment in Pregnancy (MEP) study at the University Hospital Southampton. It will be funded by the British Medical Association Foundation for Medical Research’s The James Trust grant 2022.

Dr Haitchi, Associate Professor in Respiratory Medicine, said:

“Several possible asthma mediators will be analysed together, with clinical data from mums and babies using multiple novel research techniques.

“This may help us to explain why children born to asthmatic mothers who are overweight have an increased risk of developing asthma.”

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