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A better test for gestational diabetes

Project summary

The current test for gestational diabetes can be inaccurate, expensive, inconvenient, and unappealing for many women. Professor Claire Meek wants to develop a new test that could tackle these problems. A better test could help more women with gestational diabetes to get an easier diagnosis, as well as the support they need as they go through pregnancy. 

Background to research

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that develops during pregnancy, and affects 20 million women around the world every year. It’s also linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes for both mother and baby later in life. 

It’s currently diagnosed using an oral glucose tolerance test, which involves drinking a sugary drink and having a blood sugar test. But these are expensive, aren’t always accurate, and can be unpleasant. The test also isn’t very convenient or accessible to women living in areas of deprivation, or from ethnic minorities, and this contributes to healthcare inequalities. 

Professor Claire Meek wants to find a better test for gestational diabetes. Prof Meek and her team want to start by investigating a substance found in blood called Fibrinopeptide A. 

They’ve found evidence that a substance called Fibrinopeptide A, that’s produced when blood clots, is linked to higher blood sugar levels. They now want to see if it could be used to spot gestational diabetes. 

Research aims

Prof Meek and her team will use state-of-the-art lab equipment to develop a new test that can measure levels of Fibrinopeptide A in blood samples. This will include using a technique called mass spectrometry which can detect tiny amounts of chemicals, helping the team to do more detailed testing. 

Once they’ve developed the test, they’ll check how effective is it at picking up gestational diabetes. They’ll recruit pregnant women, who will give extra blood samples at healthcare appointments and check if the test can accurately diagnose them. 

They’ll also check if the test works well in women of all ethnicities. If successful, the team want to run a clinical trial to find out if their new test performs better than current ways of diagnosing gestational diabetes. This will build the evidence that could see the test introduced in the NHS. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

All women should have fair access to accurate and convenient testing for gestational diabetes. Prof Meek’s new test could tick all these boxes, as well as being more cost-effective for the NHS. A better test would mean that more women with gestational diabetes would get the care they deserve, helping them to have healthier pregnancies and smoother births. 

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