There are two types of twins: Fraternal twins which are the result of two eggs and two sperm; and identical twins where there is one egg and one sperm with the fertilised egg dividing early in pregnancy into two. In the womb, each fraternal twin has its own placenta where as identical twins share a placenta.
Twin-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS) affects identical twins when blood flow from the single placenta is shared unevenly so that one gets too much and the other too little. Even with treatment this condition can be fatal and there is a high incidence of premature birth and the possibility of long-term brain damage.
Professor Fisk and his team received two grants from Sparks to investigate possible causes and treatments of TTTS. The first grant allowed the development of a Doppler ultrasound technique to help visualise the faulty connections of blood vessels in the womb. With continued funding from Sparks, and using current imaging techniques, the researchers were able to pinpoint these faulty connections to enable them to be destroyed by telescopic laser.
Sparks pioneering research contributed to a better understanding of placental blood flow and laid the foundations for the development of new treatments. 26 papers were published from this work alone and Professor Fisk, now Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Queensland, Australia, and his group are now internationally recognised as experts on TTTS.
Professor Fisk said “The funding provided by Sparks has been extraordinarily influential in revealing major insights into how faulty placental vessels cause TTTS and thus the high rate of fetal death and brain injury. This has been important in guiding the development of the modern laser approach to treat this disease. Only by understanding what can seem to be chaotic anatomy, can fetal surgeons produce the best results in this devastating disease”.
Sparks continues to fund vital research into children’s medical conditions. Find out more about our current projects or get involved in our fundraising events today.
- University of Queensland, Australia
- Premature birth, cerebral palsy