The arrival of a baby should be a time of great joy and celebration for all families, and the Mater Foundation’s ground-breaking research is taking another step towards all children having the best possible start to their lives. 

Recently, The Lott via Golden Casket made a $500,000 donation to support two Mater Foundation research projects. 

One project focuses on the possible link between neonatal sulphate deficiency and the risk of intellectual disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, in preterm babies. The other project is working on reducing stillbirths. 

Golden Casket has supported Mater for more than 120 years and continues to make an annual donation of $500,000 to fund worthwhile projects that enhances the wellbeing of mothers and their babies. 

Mater researchers Associate Professor Paul Dawson and Dr Elizabeth Hurrion are leading the “SuPreme” study to determine the protective effect of sulphate in preterm infants. 

Almost 1 in 10 babies are born preterm. In Australia, more than 4,000 preterm births occur before 32 weeks gestation, and need neonatal intensive care and/or special newborn care services. Of the surviving 3,500 infants each year, over 300 will face life-long disabilities including cerebral palsy and/or intellectual impairment, and up to 50 per cent will experience cognitive, learning and behavioural impairments. 

Previous research by Associate Professor Dawson and Dr Hurrion, also funded by a grant from Golden Casket, was the first study in the world to show preterm babies rapidly become sulphate deficient, unless the mother has received magnesium sulphate. 

“If our hypothesis is proven, then this research will pave the way for a sulphate supplementation treatment that could be given soon after birth to prevent sulphate deficiency and reduce brain injury in preterm infants.” Associate Professor Dawson said.

Meanwhile, Professor Vicki Flenady, Director of the NMHRC Centre for Research Excellence in Stillbirth, and her team are making strides towards reducing stillbirths and improving the quality of care for women and families after stillbirth.   

Each day in Australia, six babies are stillborn, affecting almost 2,200 families each year. 

“We have been studying stillbirth for more than 30 years and, with the data we have collected, we are now at the point where we are implementing strategies to make a significant difference,” Professor Flenady said. 

“The generous donation from Golden Casket will enable us to continue our work in talking to diverse communities to ensure all women receive the best possible care after a baby is stillborn and to work with communities to reduce the disparities that exist.”