Lita Cosner Chats with Prenatal Medical Researcher Dr Larry Thaete

Dr Larry Thaete received a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. He works as a medical research scientist researching treatments for fetal growth restriction at NorthShore University Health System and is on the research faculty at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Medical research on the unborn patient

Dr Thaete’s medical degree equipped him “to investigate the molecular and cellular biology of pathologic processes”. Fifteen years ago, he decided to specialize in high-risk obstetrics after being approached by a medical obstetrician who was also a deacon in his church. This deacon was establishing a laboratory to investigate fetal growth restriction, where the baby inside the womb fails to grow normally.

This research is specifically focused on “treating fetal growth restriction when it occurs too early in the pregnancy for the baby to be delivered safely.” Dr Thaete explained the significance of this research: about 5% of pregnancies are affected by fetal growth restriction. Sometimes this happens too early in the pregnancy for the baby to be delivered safely and is fatal for the baby. Even in cases where the baby survives, sometimes long-term complications affect the child into adulthood.

Dr Thaete’s research may produce the first treatment for fetal growth restriction. He says, “I have maintained enthusiasm for this work because there is real hope that what we are learning and developing could for the first time provide an answer for this serious health problem.” This will help both the mothers and babies, since currently there is no treatment for fetal growth restriction.

His research is significant because “what we are developing could save the lives of some babies who would not otherwise survive.” These babies would normally be miscarried or sometimes aborted to save the mother’s life. Sometimes when a fetus is suffering from fetal growth restriction, the mother also experiences symptoms that are occasionally life-threatening. When this happens, the mother must choose whether to risk her life to try to bring her baby to sufficient maturity so the baby can survive outside the womb (which is not always successful), or to abort the baby to save her life. The development of a treatment for fetal growth restriction would make it possible to save both the mother and the baby. Thus it would prevent the tiny fraction of abortions (still a considerable number) performed to save the mother’s life….

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