Timeline of our Achievements
The Genesis Research Trust arose from the Institute of Obstetrics & Gynaecology which was founded after the second world war and was the leading academic unit in the UK in all aspects of women’s health. The Institute was part of the Postgraduate Medicine Federation and based jointly at Hammersmith Hospital, Chelsea Hospital for Women and Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in Goldhawk Road. It set up its own charity for research purposes which eventually became the Genesis Research Trust. With re-organization of medicine in West London, Chelsea Hospital for Women and Queen Charlotte’s were eventually rebuilt (QCCH) on the Imperial College site at Hammersmith. The charity is housed in the Wolfson & Weston Institute of Family Health directly adjacent to QCCH.
• Professor Ian Donald carries out pioneering work at Hammersmith that leads to the development of ultrasound imaging (before his appointment at the University of Glasgow in 1954). His earlier research work at Hammersmith was directed towards respiratory problems in the newborn, and he devised apparatus to help babies breathe.
• Research at Hammersmith Hospital by Professor Erica Wachtel (and that of others) leads to the establishment of the National Cervical Cytology Screening Service which began officially in 1967.
• Professor John McClure Browne establishes the UK’s leading unit for the antenatal care of women in the UK.
• Hammersmith is responsible for setting up training courses for senior students from over 80 countries specializing in women’s diseases. This initiative has a massive global impact.
• Peter Tizard establishes neonatology research at Hammersmith.
• In this decade, no fewer than 32 of the senior staff at the unit go on to establish academic chairs in departments all over the world, making the Hammersmith one of the most influential units globally.
• Professor Winston and colleagues develop gynaecological surgical techniques that improve fertility treatments. They develop pelvic microsurgery, and various surgical instruments to carry it out. Professor Winston advances treatments for fallopian tube damage & pelvic inflammatory disease, and describes a better understanding of the pathophysiology of the oviduct.
• Jonathan Wigglesworth makes great strides in our understanding of fetal breathing whilst working in the neonatal unit. He also publishes more than 100 papers on various subjects including placental pathology, fetal growth retardation, fetal lung development and perinatal lung pathology, fetal brain development and perinatal brain damage.
• The World Health Organisation sets up its lead group at Hammersmith under the leadership of Professor Murdo Elder. This greatly improves our understanding of hormonal disorders in reproduction and leads to significant improvements in contraception and techniques to help women with hormonal infertility.
• Harry Gordon pioneers intrauterine transfusion of the fetus, saving many children’s lives with blood incompatibility disorders. He also contributes major advances in the care of diabetic women in pregnancy, one of the commonest causes of fetal and infant damage.
• Professor John Chassar Moir, who pioneered the synthesis of ergometrine (probably preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths from obstetric haemorrhage – the biggest killer in childbirth) continues his world-class work on repairing fistulae of the bladder, vagina, and rectum.
• In 1977, Robert Winston is joined by Raul Margara, a reproductive physician from Buenos Aires. Their collaboration eventually produces its highly successful clinical service and their work leads to a major reproductive research group being established at Hammersmith Hospital (in the ‘hut’ opposite). Numerous overseas medical and science graduates come to train here from all over the world at Hammersmith and there are now alumni from the unit in about 80 different countries.
• Professor Winston pioneers new treatments to improve in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and develop pre-implantation diagnosis techniques. Stephen Hillier joins Winston’s group (1980), and with his scientific leadership many contributions to improve infertility treatment and IVF are made; the Hammersmith IVF unit becomes one of the most successful in the world.
• Professor David Edwards conducts the first neonatal MRI on a child with a large haemorrhagic infarction at the Hammersmith in 1983.
• Professor Stephen Franks contributes better understanding of ovarian physiology and superovulation.
• Alan Handyside takes over from Stephen Hillier and under his direction, the IVF group studies human embryos and the environment for their maintenance, their cell division and, subsequently, their gene expression. This work gives insights into why many human embryos are not viable. What follows is a radical development in the field of IVF technology.
• The first pre-implantation genetic diagnosis is conducted at Hammersmith and the first children free of fatal gene defects are born in 1990.
• Kate Hardy becomes a leading scientist in the team, making key observations on human embryonic health, metabolism, and cell death during the very early stages of human embryonic growth.
• In 2002, a major ambition is realised when, under Robert Winston’s leadership, the Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology (IRDB) is opened on the Hammersmith site, with 130 scientists and clinicians working in 12 related research groups. A scientific director, Professor Malcolm Parker, is appointed with overall responsibility for the internationally competitive research undertaken in the building (which houses the Genesis Research Trust).
• Professor Gudrun Moore’s group makes a major contribution in understanding many gene disorders affecting young children, which cause death in infancy or childhood. Her work leads to increased understanding of an important group of diseases, known as imprinting disorders.
• Professor Nick Fisk pioneers work in twin pregnancy which leads to the development of treatments to prevent twin to twin transfusion, frequently a fatal disorder.
• Professor Bennett and his team discover that a protein system which controls gene expressed called ‘Activator Protein One’ plays a very important role in the onset of both term and preterm labour. Work undertaken by Professor Edwards and Professor Henrik Hagberg had already shown that Activator Protein One also plays a role in perinatal brain injury.
• Professor Brosens makes a breakthrough in predicting miscarriage. He found that found that the ability of the lining of the womb to decidualize (to prepare itself for pregnancy) is defective in women suffering from recurrent miscarriages. The ability of the womb to initiate a pregnancy response can be determined by examination of a small piece of the lining under a microscope.
• Professor Lesley Regan introduces successful treatment regime for recurrent miscarriage caused by Antiphospholipid Syndrome (“sticky blood”) – which affects 15% of women suffering from recurrent miscarriage and concerns the implantation and effectiveness of the placenta. Careful testing before and during pregnancy, followed by treatment with low-dose aspirin and a low dose of heparin, raises the live birth rate from as low as 10% in women without treatment to as high as 80%.
• Professors Stephen Franks and Kate Hardy describe abnormalities in early follicular development in the polycystic ovary, and show that this phenomenon is associated with abnormal expression of growth factors implicated in follicle development. They also describe a disorder of energy balance (associated with insulin resistance) in women with PCOS and demonstrate that metabolic abnormalities in PCOS are linked to menstrual dysfunction.
• Professor Stephen Franks is amongst the first to promote low-dose gonadotropin regimens for the safe treatment of infertility in women with PCOS, a procedure that has now been adopted worldwide.
• Professor Malcolm Parker and his team demonstrate that the action of hormones mediated by nuclear receptors depends on receptor interacting proteins. They discover that one of these (which they named RIP140) is essential for female fertility- specifically ovulation and mammary gland development and appears to contribute to breast cancer.
• Professor Catherine Williamson’s group identifies genetic causes of obstetric cholestasis (OC) including the first report of a common genetic factor found in affected women. It affects approximately 1 in 200 pregnant women in the UK.
• Professor Vivette Glover’s research reveals that maternal stress can cause biological changes in the placenta’s ability to filter the blood that passes from the mother to the baby. The result being that children whose mothers suffer the most severe stress during pregnancy have up to double the risk of developing an emotional or behavioural problem in later life.
• Ilpo Huhtaniemi, a senior author on the European Male Aging Study (largest ever study of ageing in men to identify nature and frequency of ageing symptoms in men) is amongst the first to describe the symptoms and frequency of ‘male menopause’ or more specifically, late-onset hypogonadism. Only 2% of men between the ages 40-80 suffer from the condition, far less than previously thought.
• Dr Wei Cui and her research team develop methods to efficiently produce liver cells or nerve cells from embryonic stem cells, highly important for both basic stem cell biology and for medical applications.
• Drs Geoffery Trew and Wajit Dhillo make IVF safer by using kisspepsin. It can be used to stimulate egg release in a gentler, more natural way and does not lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (as is possible with other drugs).
• Robert Winston and Carol Readhead pioneer work which leads to the highly successful introduction of DNA into sperm. This technique paves the way for likely improvements in organ transplantation of pigs’ hearts, livers, or kidneys into humans with organ failure. It also offers the opportunity of making humanized organs for drug testing, reducing the need for animal experiments or exposing human subjects to risky drug trials.
• The Women’s Health Research Centre (WHRC) is established in 2010, bringing together all the different strands of Women’s Health Research across Imperial College and Imperial College Healthcare Trust. The WHRC now acts as a central ‘hub’ for Women’s Health Research, enabling a coordinated, cohesive approach to research, with real potential for translation to better health care for women and their babies.