People who were born very prematurely are the focus of a study to help predict what health issues they may face in later life.

Lotteries Health has granted Christchurch researchers $100,000 to focus specifically on how tiny babies’ hearts can be affected as they get older.

Amy Hogan was born 16 weeks premature and as a result, has cerebral palsy. When she was born, she weighed just 556g. The now-34-year-old wants to know what that very low birth weight could mean for her as she grows older.

“To know you have this relatively traumatic and relatively complicated birth story but not to know the potential implications or potential things you could look out for or be aware of, can be a frightening experience,” she told 1 NEWS.

And soon she could be able to. Researcher Vicky Cameron is determined to find genetic markers that would help predict health problems for those born at a very low birth rate.

“A lot of people do really well, but sometimes these health issues appear [or] arise quite early,” she told 1 NEWS.  “As young adults they can get high blood pressure potentially, even early heart failure.”

As part of this research, 213 28-year-olds have given permission for their DNA to be examined. They’re part of a group of very premature babies born back in 1986.

“It’s actually a real relief to get some funding,” Ms Cameron says.  “Certainly prolonging a healthy life in these young people is obviously the aim of the study.”

Paediatrician Professor Brian Darlow welcomes the news, saying there’s a shortage of health information for those born early once they get to their 40s and beyond.

“Most of our very low birth weight graduates are doing extremely well, they’re living healthy productive lives and their function is in the normal range,” he told 1 NEWS. “But they do have some challenges, and if we could identify those who have greater challenges earlier, maybe we’d be in a better space to help those problems occurring.”

This part of the study will take two years.

See the full article on One News here