Area 3

Fetal and perinatal medicine

Team leader

Strategic objectives

The principal strategic objective is to search for solutions to prenatal diseases, identifying the mechanisms involved in fetal brain and cardiac reprogramming, and consolidating our existing lines of work in different fields, such as perinatal infections, HIV and neonatal infection, fetal therapy and surgery, screening strategies and prediction of fetal and maternal pathology in large populations, preeclampsia and prematurity.

We work on several cross-disciplinary projects so as to come up with real solutions to fetal problems by:

  • Improving identification of those fetuses at risk and provide new clinical definitions to diagnose fetal growth restriction problems.
  • Developing new imaging technologies for research purposes and non-invasive early diagnosis procedures.
  • Identifying new biomarker signatures for several pathologies that can be used in clinical practice, as well as new molecular signaling ways and therapeutic targets.
  • Consolidating our models for characterization and follow-up of the molecular mechanisms associated with fetal heart and brain reprogramming

Main lines of research

  1. Prematurity: The main objective of the Prematurity line is to gain a better insight into the causes of preterm birth, the most frequent cause of perinatal morbimortality. The research combines clinical practice and lab work: the team looks for better detection methods of patients at real risk of preterm delivery, and works to optimize the management and care of neonatal patients, This way, the team expects to find biomarkers to distinguish at-risk patients from patients with a good prognosis, minimizing needless surgeries and management of time and resources in clinical care to achieve the best possible results.
  2. Metabolomics and Microstructure. The metabolomics and microstructure research line wants to find and define metabolic differences in the brain of fetuses and children who are diagnosed with growth restriction and that can be considered at risk of neurodevelopmental problems. In this line, doctors, biologists, psychologists, and engineers work together in order to identify subtle changes in brain microstructure, using the latest technologies, mainly based on MRI techniques. Knowing what changes occur in the brain at a metabolic level will be of great value while diagnosing and treating these children at risk, improving their prognosis.
  3. Diagnosis and Therapy in IUGR. The Diagnosis and Therapy in IUGR research line aim is to identify before birth those babies with growth problems that, unlike small-for-gestational-age babies, will present an abnormal neurodevelopment. Despite not being severe, these subtle neurodevelopmental alterations are being increasingly taken into account because of its family and social implications. Therefore, using the right definition for IUGR and correctly identifying at-risk babies is especially important in order to establish preventive measures during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as therapies during early childhood.
  4. Brain Connectivity. The main objective of the brain connectivity line is to develop quantitative imaging biomarkers for early diagnosis of neurodevelopmental disorders based on the analysis of the connections in the brain by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a methodology known as connectomics. Having these biomarkers available would make early identification of neurodevelopmental disorders possible, as well as the implementation of specific programs of early stimulation and education to improve the development of these children.
  5. Fetal Cardiovascular Programming. The fetal cardiovascular programming research line focuses on those prenatal circumstances that may induce a higher postnatal cardiovascular risk, such as intrauterine growth restriction, pregnancies obtained via assisted reproduction techniques, and prematurity. The main objectives of the line include getting a better understanding of the pathophysiologic mechanisms of fetal cardiovascular programming, the development of biomarkers that allow early detection and monitoring of cardiovascular remodeling and putting into practice therapies that can improve the cardiovascular prognosis of these children.