Birth defects

Yasmine with her sister Zara

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 has two daughters. Her first daughter, Yasmine, was born with spina bifida, despite the fact that Anne-Marie had been taking folic acid for a couple of years.

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 also 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 and families are already benefiting from research into birth defects undertaken at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (ICH). Before getting pregnant with her second child Anne-Marie decided to take part in a clinical trial led by GOSH.

As part of the trial, she once again took folic acid but this time also took inositol (vitamin B8). The 20-week scan showed that everything was fine, and Anne-Marie’s second daughter Zara was born four months later without spina bifida.