Climate change is the biggest health threat of the 21st century. Pregnant women are vulnerable to the effects of climate change, best demonstrated by the association of air pollution and heat with preterm birth (when the baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and term low birth weight (when the baby is born after 37 weeks of pregnancy but has not grown to an expected weight). These exposures might also shape the long-term health of the child by affecting the development of different organs of the baby in the womb. Given the physiological changes that occur normally as part of pregnancy, pregnant women might make different responses to airborne materials and heat compared to non-pregnant people. Understanding how pregnant women respond to climate change and how this response is propagated to the placenta and fetus is critical to ensuring the wellbeing of women and of future generations.
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Professor Cathy Thornton
About the speaker
Cathy Thornton is Professor of Human Immunology at Swansea University where she is Head of the Medical School overseeing diverse education programmes and an extensive array of research activity.
Her own research is centred on exploring basic mechanisms underlying functional differences in immune function at birth and in early childhood through to translational studies around pregnancy and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Cathy is internationally recognised for her expertise in the early life origins of immune mediated diseases and her work is funded by NERC, MRC, Wellcome Trust, MS Society UK and Welsh Government amongst others. Her main current research effort is investigating how the perinatal environment linked to maternal exposures to air pollution and heat affects the programming of fetal organs and the consequences of this for child health.
This includes leading a UK-wide consortium as part of the Clean Air Programme. Innovation activity includes novel diagnostics for adverse pregnancy and the development of blood handling devices.