Natasha Hezelgrave

My Fellowship allowed me to combine research time with my obstetrics and gynaecology clinical training. I was able to gain experience in a number of different research areas and methodologies, including basic science, clinical trials, global public health and epidemiology.

The Fellowship not only provided financial support for laboratory consumables and access to state of the art laboratory facilities, but also allowed for mentoring and interview practice, and broad research skills training (including laboratory techniques, statistical analysis, and patient-public involvement).  This allowed me develop my chosen project into a successful NIHR Doctoral Research Fellowship application.

I am now in my second PhD year.  I have been lucky enough to attend and present my work at conferences around the world, sit on international guideline development committees and develop preterm-birth patient public involvement groups.

After my PhD, I hope to combine training in maternal-fetal medicine with a clinical lectureship post, enabling me to complete my clinical training and advance my research career.

Research Summary

Preterm birth (spontaneous birth before 37 weeks of gestation) is the major cause of neonatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. My project aims to identify novel biomarkers expressed in the cervicovaginal fluid and blood which may be used to predict those women at the highest risk of preterm birth early in pregnancy (12-14 weeks gestation).

In particular, we are exploring the expression of vaginal natural antimicrobial peptides (key components of the innate immune system), and their relationship to the vaginal microbiome in women at high-risk of premature birth. Women in a cohort study who develop a short cervix on ultrasound (indicating high-risk of subsequent premature birth) are randomised to one of three prophylactic treatments to establish the most efficacious therapy and relationship to biomarker expression and mechanism of disease are explored.