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  • 1 August 2018 to 31 March 2019
  • Awards: Pump-priming Awards

Preterm birth (less than 37 weeks’ gestation, where normal birth is between 37-42 weeks’ gestation) affects over 8% of births in the UK and 11% of births worldwide, with the majority of individuals now surviving to adulthood due to advances in clinical care. By childhood, they are at increased risk of heart failure and have higher blood pressure compared to their term-born peers, with a three-fold increased likelihood of being hypertensive by young adulthood. Preterm-born offspring also show a loss of small blood vessels and increased blood circulating levels of factors related to a decreased ability for blood vessels to grow and form new vessels, both of which relate to their increase in blood pressure. Endothelial-colony forming cells (ECFCs) are a type of circulating blood cell with a high clonal proliferative potential and offer an opportunity to assess how well blood vessels may be able to grow and form. As part of a detailed cardiovascular phenotyping study in preterm- and term-born children, we will isolate ECFCs from venous blood samples in preterm children for the first time and study their ability to grow and form new blood vessels in a controlled lab setting to better understand underlying mechanisms of blood pressure elevation in this growing subgroup of individuals.