Chief Investigators

Dr Paul Dawson, Professor Nadia Badawi, Professor Roslyn Boyd, A/Professor Vicki Flenady, Dr Elizabeth Hurrion, Professor Francis Bowling, Dr Pieter Koorts, Professor Sailesh Kumar.

Associate Investigators

Cathy Morgan, Kristen Gibbons, Michael Beckmann, Paul Colditz, Sarah McIntyre, Victoria de Ryck. 


NHMRC Project Grant 1081911 - $720,437; 2015-2019

About the study

Each year, preterm birth places more than 4,000 Australian infants at an increased risk of life-long health outcomes, including CP and cognitive dysfunction. Our research into the neuroprotective role of sulphate among preterm babies will address this important health issue. This study involves measuring plasma sulphate levels in preterm infants (<32 weeks gestation) recruited over 3 years, and to test the hypothesis that sulphate levels in 1 week old infants inversely correlates with adverse neurodevelopment outcome. Our pilot data supports the development of sulphate deficiency in extremely preterm infants and also demonstrates that antenatal magnesium sulphate therapy largely mitigates this deficiency. We propose that the neuroprotective effect of magnesium sulphate is conferred by the sulphate rather than the magnesium as currently theorised. This is based on our animal studies which show that sulphate has a crucial role in brain development. If antenatal magnesium sulphate could be replaced by neonatal supplementation this would have significant health-cost implications, would avoid any complications of delaying delivery to administer magnesium sulphate, and would make the treatment available to infants born precipitously or by emergency caesarean section who currently miss out on magnesium sulphate.

Project members

Professor Roslyn Boyd

Professor and Scientific Director