Meet this year's recipient of the Athena Award, Ann Hellström
Nov. 22, 2012
"During several years of intensive research had Ann Hellström and colleagues found that ROP could be due to premature babies lacked sufficient amount of IGF-1 and growth thus halt and then start again in week 30-32, and then be wrong . That day in June 2010 was a breakthrough. The amount of IGF-1 as the researchers gave the premature baby did, and today the two-year kid live a completely normal life.
In Sweden, hit 25 percent of all children born before the 32nd week of pregnancy of ROP. Approximately 1 child out of 100 born in Sweden were born in this time and thus at risk of developing ROP. Among babies born before 27 weeks of gestation is approximately 70 percent hit.
- All premature babies are at risk, says Ann Hellström.
To know if a premature baby is at risk for ROP need an investigation that is very complicated and difficult for the child. To shine in the eye and the distribution of eye drops to a premature baby can be enough to disrupt the growth rhythm.
The research team has also created a database system, called Winrop, currently used worldwide. Winrop makes it possible to monitor the child and the weight development. Both neonatologen as eye doctor can quickly see the results and respond to a child's growth slowed.
- We will never be able to completely get rid of the screening, but thanks to Winrop we can at least halve the number of occasions, which is of great importance for the child, says Ann Hellström.
To an outsider it might seem strange that a record has such an effect.
- It is very much about tradition and conventions. Eye doctor makes his examination and then goes home to her, likewise neonatologen. One need instruments to learn to work across borders, Winrop is such, she says.
Just that bit, to work unconventional and boundless, is important for Ann Hellström.
- Anyone who has worked on this and spent all this time have also become good friends. We have a deeper relationship with each other that is more than just a work-based. I think that is important in this kind of work because it creates a creative environment that provides a new perspective on things.
Getting Athena The price is of course a great honor for her.
- It is extremely funny. Though the price is not just for me. It's also to all my wonderful colleagues. It proves to us that we have done something good.
But research continues.
Why premature babies have such low levels of IGF-1 we not know really.
- In all probability, it is a signal from the placenta which disappear when the baby is born too early, exactly how the signal looks like we do not know today.
In addition to addressing the problem the team is working now with the research of IGF-I as a drug to prevent preterm infants develop ROP.
- It is work that we have started, it's still early in the process, but the studies we have done looks very promising and it is obviously very exciting.
It is an intense work Ann Hellström carries. During the interview, ping laptop's inbox several times and travels around the world to talk about work or instruct the Indian or Chinese colleagues how to use Winrop is demanding. The energy and new approaches, she finds in the stable among the horses. Ever since childhood, she has had a great interest in horses.
- When I run the dung cart, the ideas comes, she says, laughing"
"That day in June 2010 was a breakthrough. The amount of IGF-1 as the researchers gave the premature baby did, and today the two-year kid live a completely normal life."
Intriguing to say the least.
June 2010 was the start of the ongoing clinical trial. The implication seems to be that at least one of the first babies treated with iPlex developed normally. Which is unexpected, considering that the initial phase of the study was to involve five babies being treated for just a week.
One wonders if, after the end-of-week assessment, those five babies remained on iPlex.