Professor Arvind Sehgal’s breakthrough research

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Sonny Smith is one of the smallest babies born at Monash Children’s Hospital, weighing just 446g when mum Jessica gave birth at 26 weeks gestation. He is one of the approximately 5% of babies born in Australia who are delivered at just a third of the size they should be due to a condition known as foetal growth restriction (FGR) that develops during pregnancy.

While there historically hasn’t been a way to screen or treat FGR, new research from Monash Children’s Hospital and Monash University has made great strides in identifying the cause and possible treatment of FGR.

Professor Arvind Sehgal, Neonatologist and Head of Cardiovascular Research at Monash Children’s Hospital and Professor of Paediatrics at Monash University, and a team of researchers found that a mother’s high blood pressure at the end of the second trimester is a key cause of FGR. This new development will allow doctors to flag the possibility of FGR and keep a close eye on mum and baby throughout the pregnancy.

The next step into FGR research is to investigate treatment options for the condition. A new trial about to commence will investigate whether melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement traditionally used for jet-lag, can help to repair damaged blood vessels in babies like Sonny.

Now five months old and weighing 3.3kg, Sonny has overcome many hurdles early in life but remains a frequent visitor to Monash Children’s Hospital for check-ups. Jessica said a treatment for FGR would be life changing and life saving.

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