Fallopian tube ‘biobank’ starts ectopic pregnancy research in Sydney

By Kate Hassett

Fallopian tube ‘biobank’ starts ectopic pregnancy research in Sydney
In a world first, researchers at UNSW and Sydney's Royal Hospital for Women, have begun research into ectopic pregnancy.

In an incredible progression for research into ectopic pregnancies, 56 participants have  donated to the biobank at Lowy Institute for Cancer Research at UNSW.

The generous donations have allowed research to commence into why ectopic pregnancies occur and why some women are unable to accept embryos when implanted through IVF.

In Australia, 1 in 80 pregnancies are ectopic and two to three women each year die as a result of ectopic pregnancies. This harrowing ordeal has previously mystified researchers and medical professionals who up until this point, have not been able to provide sufficient answers to pressing questions regarding the diagnosis.

Ectopic pregnancies, which occur when the foetus develops outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tube, must be treated to avoid the foetus developing and risking serious implications for the mother.

Professor Bill Ledger, head of reproductive medicine at the Royal Hospital for Women and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at UNSW, spearheaded the development of the biobank.

“The first question a woman asks when she recovers from surgery is why did it happen to me? And to be honest, at the moment we don’t have many answers,” he said.

“We can [now] look at the development of the placenta – we can look at why the placenta is growing where it is, look at whether the placenta is growing properly, [to] give us a clue about why women get pre-eclampsia or other diseases which are placenta driven.”

The biobank acts as a ‘storage facility’ of sorts, where tissue that is collected from the patient during surgery, is prepared for RNA and DNA work as well as further analysis.

Fallopian tubes that have been removed from patients are more often than not, treated as waste and disposed of.

The biobank is also being used to further research into cancer.

“It’s an interesting model because what happens in early pregnancy is the placenta is invading into the wall of the mum’s womb,” Professor Ledger told ABC.

“In the case of [an] ectopic [pregnancy], it’s invading into the wall of the tube so you’ve got tissue invasion which is what cancer does.”

 

Image: ABC News Debbie Packham in the fallopian tube biobank at the Lowy Institute
Image: NSW Health: Debbie Packham in the fallopian tube biobank at the Lowy Institute

 

 

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