Developing a non-invasive treatment for Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome using High Intensity Focused Ultrasound
Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) affects 10-15% of twins which share a placenta, and may have serious consequences including premature delivery, permanent handicap or death for babies affected. The condition is a result of abnormal connections between the blood vessels in the shared placenta. More severe cases are currently treated by keyhole surgery, where a hole is made in the womb and a laser is used to burn away the abnormal blood vessels. Whilst this is a successful treatment, making even a small hole in the womb carries a risk of bleeding, infection and miscarriage or preterm delivery. Our research aims to develop and alternative treatment for TTTS which could still burn away blood vessels, but without the need for surgery. Such a treatment might have fewer complications, which may mean more babies could be treated at an earlier stage in the disease, potentially improving their chances of surviving and escaping disability. The new treatment, called High intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) can target sound waves very accurately so they destroy tissue and without the need for surgery. It has been used in humans to treat cancer growths, and it can close off blood vessels the size of the ones in the placenta. However research has not been done in pregnancy to show the effects of blocking blood vessels in the placenta with HIFU. We are currently in laboratory stages of developing and testing the safety and effectiveness of this new system to use on placental blood vessels, and if these tests are successful we hope to be able to develop a clinical trial to use HIFU in human pregnancy. This work is funded by Action Medical Research, the Isaac Newton Trust and the Genesis Research Trust.