Dames come together for mother and baby health research

02 May 2017
Professor Frank Bloomfield, director of the Liggins Institute, with a new mother
Professor Frank Bloomfield, director of the Liggins Institute, with a new mother

What may be the biggest gathering yet of Kiwi Dames is taking place this Saturday night – just in time for Mother’s Day.

More than 20 Dames are coming together for a unique event to celebrate the achievements of the Liggins Institute, which aims to give all babies a healthy start and set them up for lifelong health.

The Night of the Dames will be held in the pavilion in the grounds of Old Government House, in central Auckland.

Each Dame will host a table of 10 for the dinner event.

Guests could find themselves sharing a table with Dame Jenny Shipley, Dame Malvina Major, Dame Catherine Harcourt, Dame Rosanne Meo, Dame Rosemary Horton, Dame Lesley Max, Dame Catherine Tizard, Dame Deidre Milne, Dame Jocelyn Fish, Dame Susan Devoy, Dame Silvia Cartwright, Dame Diane Robertson, Dame Ann Salmond, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, Dame Wendy Pye, Dame Therese Walsh, Dame Paula Rebstock, Dame Lowell Goddard, Dame Alison Paterson, Dame Beverley Wakem, or Dame Margaret Sparrow.

Institute director Professor Frank Bloomfield says he is honoured by the Dames’ support.

“These are highly accomplished women whose achievements have benefited and inspired others,” he says. “The evening will be a great occasion to reflect on how research at the Institute also touches the lives of so many New Zealanders.”

The Liggins Institute is a large-scale research institute based at the University of Auckland. It works to turn research discoveries into real strategies that will help people to prevent and manage major 21st century health problems, such as obesity and diabetes.

Dame Rosanne Meo is one of the Dames attending the special event
Dame Rosanne Meo is one of the Dames attending the special event

Studies underway

Speakers will talk about some of the studies underway at the Institute, from both the researcher’s and participant’s point of view. These studies aim to:

  • Prevent adult diseases by intervening before birth. By understanding how events early in pregnancy can influence the onset of adult diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, Liggins researchers are paving the way for new treatments and prevention of some of the most pressing health issues of our time
  • Turn off the “obesity” switch. Liggins is running the New Zealand arm of the international NiPPeR study, which is seeking to crack lifelong obesity programming with nutrition. Scientists think that the food women eat, even before they are pregnant, can programme a future baby’s genes to switch on or off, influencing the risk of childhood obesity later in life. Starting before conception, all of the women in the study are given a nutrient drink that includes the vitamin and mineral supplements already recommended during pregnancy. Half the women also get extra supplements. The study will track the metabolic health of the future mothers and their babies through the babies’ first year of life.
  • Optimise nutrition for babies and mothers. The DIAMOND trial, led by Professor Bloomfield (also a neonatologist and father of six), will investigate whether giving specially boosted nutrition to preterm babies in the first crucial days of life could prevent diseases later in life and help intellectual development, and whether this optimal nutrition may differ for boys and girls.
  • Ensure all premature babies have a healthy start to life. The h-POD trial, led by acclaimed researcher Professor Jane Harding, is investigating whether a simple dab of inexpensive dextrose (sugar) gel, applied to at-risk newborns on their inside cheek an hour after birth, could prevent them from getting neonatal hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar – a condition which, if left untreated, can cause developmental brain damage and lowered education outcomes later in life. Professor Harding and her team have already shown that the sugar gel is a safe, inexpensive treatment for low blood sugar.

The event is at 6-10pm, Saturday 6 May, 2017, at The Pavilion, Old Government House, corner Princes Street and Waterloo Quadrant. Tickets are $225 each and can be purchased here.



Nicola Shepheard Media Adviser

Tel: 09 923 1515 Mob: 027 537 1319 Email: n.shepheard@auckland.ac.nz