Born Prematurely — Dr Neil Chapman — 2nd July 2017                

Why an early birth­day goes wrong.’

Dr Neil Chapman, is Group Leader and non-Clinical Lecturer in Reproductive Medicine at Jessops Hospital , Dept. of Oncology & Metabolism. If anyone was in doubt as to the value of Sheffield’s Hospitals, Dr Chapman soon dis­pelled any uncer­tainty.  Fortunately no-one in my family has had to call on the skills and know­ledge at Jessups but some of my acquaint­ances have.   Gratefully so, I might add.

A round figure of some 15,000,000 people around the world are born too soon.  This res­ults in many pos­sible com­plic­a­tions and long-term damage.  Of these, one mil­lion will die as a result.  A major­ity of the deaths will occur in babies born  very pre­ma­turely,  between 28 and 30 weeks gest­a­tion.

Jessops Maternity Wing man­ages 7,000 deliv­er­ies per year.  As yet, doc­tors do not have suf­fi­cient know­ledge to pre­vent them when prob­lems involving pre­ma­ture birth arise.  Surprisingly there are com­par­at­ively few medi­cines to pre­vent pre­ma­ture labour.  Those medi­cines that do exist may be counter pro­duct­ive and can cause prob­lems for mother and child.

The cells in the wall of the womb con­tain nuclei and DNA or gen­omes, which con­trol womb con­trac­tions.  They can be com­pared to a lib­rary of instruc­tions.  Each book rep­res­ents an indi­vidual gene.  The basic genes are described as A,T,C and G which inter­act between them­selves func­tion­ing as an instruc­tion book.  Somehow, during preg­nancy the womb changes from an inflex­ible organ, to a softer pli­able one as labour approaches.  Despite the com­plex reac­tion between A,T,C and G how it works is still not com­pletely under­stood.  The com­par­ison Dr Chapman made to a Land Rover’s ser­vi­cing sched­ule, is a doddle it seems to me, com­pared with our friends A,T,C and G and what they get up to.

I am amazed at the  degree of study and know­ledge the med­ical spe­cial­ists have acquired.  Yet, it appears that there are vast tracts of unknowns out there.

We were reminded that it was only as recently as 1860 that Darwin was study­ing embry­ology and the origin of spe­cies.  Wouldn’t he be amazed at the present state of advanced know­ledge?  Birth and death was in his eyes an example of sur­vival of the fit­test.