UAlberta forms pregnancy research alliance with China

(Edmonton) A new pregnancy research alliance between the University of Alberta and Chongqing Medical University will advance women’s and perinatal health by translating findings from the lab to the bedside.

The University of Alberta and CQMU in Chongqing, China, have formed an International Pregnancy Research Alliance. The partnership is designed to address several of the most serious pregnancy-related health issues, from preterm births to intrauterine growth restrictions to pre-eclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure that can cause seizures in the mother and even death.

“It’s quite important to study these diseases and adverse health outcomes because they predict the long-term health of individuals,” said David Olson, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and a member of the research alliance. “There are 15 million preterm births in the world and one million of those babies are going to die. It’s a sizable problem and the burden on the health system is enormous.”

Representatives from the U of A and CQMU formed the research alliance last spring after some of the top minds in pregnancy health, including three faculty members from the U of A, attended an international conference on pregnancy research. The partnership is designed to promote research collaborations in areas of mutual interest, from basic research to a potential clinical trials network to test new therapies.

“It’s really important that we translate the work we do. All the basic science research in the pregnancy field isn’t going to help women and babies if we don’t get it out into the clinic,” Olson said.

International collaboration

Pregnancy research is an important health issue in many countries around the world, and of great interest in China given the country’s population-control policy of one child per family and the rise of the mega-city and urban living that can create stresses during pregnancy.

CQMU has created a new 300-square-metre laboratory dedicated to advancing pregnancy research, a facility that is designed to attract researchers from around the world and will include staff from the U of A.

The Women and Children’s Health Research Institute at the U of A has also dedicated a graduate studentship to the alliance. It will allow some of the best and brightest Chinese exchange students to work in research labs at the U of A.

Two Chinese researchers from the alliance travelled to Edmonton this week to attend a research symposium to help the two institutions become more familiar with each other’s work. Hua Zhang, a professor at CQMU who studies the mechanisms that cause pre-eclampsia, was impressed with the quality of research and the warm reception at the U of A.

“It is quite important to share common interests, ideas, facilities and resources,” said Zhang. “For students, it means they can benefit from working with different supervisors with different skills and teaching styles. It’s a very good opportunity.”