Grant Application

Stephen Emery, MD, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital

Proposed Innovation

Fetal therapy is a new field of medicine that is gaining attention because of its powerful impact. Using advanced diagnostic and minimally invasive surgical procedures, doctors are able to identify fetuses with life-threatening, life-limiting, or disabling diseases and change that devastating trajectory before the baby is born.

This project will support a pioneering new way to treat fetal aqueductal stenosis (FAS) — a form of hydrocephalus in which excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up in the brain. This newly developed shunt procedure is designed to drain the fluid in utero.

Improvements in Action

FAS occurs in 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, resulting in devastating damage, including improper brain development, blindness, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other neurological conditions. Through this project, an animal model will be used to test the shunt procedure to drain fluid from the brain of the developing fetus.

Bypassing the obstruction will allow the ventricles to decompress and the brain to grow and develop normally as if nothing happened. For the unborn child, this procedure will be life changing. Instead of a facing lifetime of disease, disability, and suffering, the child will have the opportunity to live a life of health, wellness, and productivity.

Intended Outcomes

There currently is no in-utero treatment for FAS. Funding of this project will support critical research and testing of this cutting-edge procedure. The shunt procedure is expected to change the management of this devastating neurological condition around the globe. It also will enable the field of fetal therapy to grow.