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Study Background

A focus of our research is to explore cardiovascular development and physiology in relation to birth history. Our recent findings from the Early Vascular Study, which recruited young adults in their mid-20’s who were born prematurely (delivered before 37 weeks gestation), suggest that preterm birth is associated with the development of a unique cardiovascular system.

Some of these findings include differences in the shape and structure of the heart and differences in the number and function of smaller blood vessels (capillaries).  Young people born prematurely also display differences in blood pressure, with values higher than their peers born after a full pregnancy (delivery after 37 weeks).

Whether the differences we observe are related to other physiological changes, such as exercise capacity or metabolic function is unknown.  We also do not know how the cardiovascular function of preterm born adults compares with adults who develop high blood pressure but were born after 37 weeks and following an uncomplicated pregnancy.

Study Objective

The purpose of the YACHT studies is to help understand more about how cardiovascular health and blood pressure are influenced by our birth histories.  We specifically wish to understand more about how preterm birth and the development of high blood pressure in early adult life influence the capacity and function of the cardiovascular system.

Using the results from the YACHT studies we hope to understand more about how to target the management and prevention of high blood pressure in young adult populations. 

Study Recruitment

We are aiming to recruit over 150 participants (aged between 18 and 40) with a range of blood pressures and different birth histories.  Our recruitment will target both young people who were born prematurely and those who are known to have high blood pressures.  This will include inviting participation from individuals attending the specialist hypertension service at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford University Hospitals Trust.

Study Visits

Study visits will take place at the John Radcliffe Hospital. Study participants will undergo detailed non-invasive imaging and functional testing of the cardiovascular system. Study assessments include magnetic resonance imaging of the heart, liver and brain, functional assessment of the heart using echocardiogram, imaging of the small blood vessels and peak exercise testing called cardiopulmonary exercise testing.  Study visits will take approximately 5 hours and testing will be scheduled at the participants’ convenience with the option of splitting the testing over a couple of days.  Full details of the study visits will be explained to potential participants in the study information leaflets.

Research Funding

The study is supported with funding from the British Heart Foundation.

Study Approval

The study has been approved by the South Central Berkshire Research Ethic Committee (Reference 14/SC/0275)

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