Our donation was seed-money for Rebecca Dyson's research into cause of death of premature babies. In Australia 10% of births are premature and this is the major cause of infant death.
Rebecca's research focuses on very pre-term babies, less than 29 weeks gestation. The first 72 hours of a premature babies life is critical. Rhonda, in her midwifery experience, has seen many such babies die at this time and she said they are bright pink/red. This was one of the clues Rebecca is following into the cause of death. Dilation of the blood vessels close to the skin makes it flush red and takes blood away from vital organs. It is accompanied by rises in the levels of H2S (Hydrogen Sulphide/Rotten Egg gas) in the blood. Rebecca's research has been tracing why this should happen in babies as it is one of the factors in adult heart disease in hypertension and shock. She was able to go to Shanghai University which has one of the few pieces of equipment in existence which can measure gas levels in tissues. There she spent many a day measuring tissue samples to discover the physiological pathways manufacturing H2S. This is leading to drug and other therapies which will block production H2S production, and the saving of premature babies lives. If they can be got safely through those first 72 hours they have a 99% chance of surviving and thriving.
Rebecca is a Novocastrian and went to St Francis Xavier. It was a pleasure to see that our funds have helped such a great piece of research and a young woman of great intelligence and easy grace.