Birth defects

Research has shown that taking folic acid during pregnancy helps prevent spina bifida. But some babies are still born with the condition.

What if surgeons could operate on a baby while they’re still in the womb, so they have the best chance of normal movement from birth?

Anne-Marie Hodkinson's first daughter, Yasmine, was born with spina bifida. 

Anne-Marie says that when she was trying for a baby first time around had already been taking folic acid for a couple of years.

Before getting pregnant with her second child Anne-Marie decided to take part in a clinical trial taking both inositol (vitamin B8) and folic acid before and during early pregnancy. After taking both Anne-Marie’s second daughter Zara was born in 2010 without a neural tube defect. 

The situation today

Birth defects, like spina bifida, affect one in every 40 pregnancies in Europe and are a major cause of childhood disability.

Our team of researchers are known worldwide for their work reconstructing organs and tissue to repair these defects. They’ve led the way in preventing conditions like spina bifida from developing during pregnancy.

How we’ll shape the future

We’ll push forward ground-breaking research to investigate how using cells from a patient’s hair or skin can create a whole range of life-saving stem cells and build tissue in the laboratory. 

In the future, our researchers hope to grow new organs for children from these cells ready for transplant without any risk of the body rejecting the tissue. Investment will focus on treating and repairing birth defects at the earliest possible stage – even operating on babies in the womb.

Children are already benefiting from research. “Once we got to the 20-week scan and found that everything was fine I notified the team and they followed up with a questionnaire,” says Anne-Marie. “Zara was born four months later without any problems.”