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Immune cells in gestational diabetes

Project summary

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. Dr April Rees hopes to understand how gestational diabetes may affect the mother’s immune system. This could shed light on why gestational diabetes develops and led to more effective diagnoses and treatments for people with gestational or type 2 diabetes. 

Background to research

Lots of changes happen to the body during pregnancy. To ensure the baby’s healthy growth, the mother’s immune system carefully adapts to pregnancy. But if these adaptions go wrong, pregnant people can be at risk of various health problems, including gestational diabetes. 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. It can cause complications during pregnancy and birth, as well as increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in later life for both mother and baby. At the moment, we still don’t know how it may affect the mother’s immune system during pregnancy. 

Dr April Rees has found changes in a specific type of immune cell called monocytes, which fight off invading viruses and bacteria, in people with gestational diabetes. And now she plans to look at these cells more closely. 

Research aims

Dr Rees wants to better understand the link between gestational diabetes and changes in the immune system. With her team, she will collect blood samples from pregnant women when they are screened for gestational diabetes at 28 weeks of pregnancy.  

They will look at monocytes in these blood samples to answer three key questions: 

  1. Do they behave differently in pregnant people with and without gestational diabetes? 

  1. How do they use energy, and does this change in people with gestational diabetes?  

  1. Are they still capable of doing their job in people with gestational diabetes? 

These answers will help Dr Rees determine if and how changes in monocytes are linked with the development of gestational diabetes. 

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This study will give us an important early look into how gestational diabetes may impact the immune system of the mother. This knowledge could help to develop better ways to diagnose the condition, by looking at monocytes in blood samples. It could also help scientists develop new treatments for people with or at risk of gestational diabetes designed to keep monocytes behaving as they should. This might also benefit people with type 2 diabetes, if the same immune changes are discovered in them.

Next Review Date
Next review due
06 November 2024
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