Fatty Acids and the 1,000 Women Study

INSTITUTION: Imperial College London
RESEARCHERS: Professor Mark Johnson, AnnieBelle Sassine, Noushin Masoudi

A large scale, diverse biobank of samples is necessary for the generation of reliable, replicable results. This ambitious longitudinal study aims to recruit 1,000 women to provide samples to be used in discovery science.

The study monitors and collects samples from women from week 12 of their first pregnancy and follows their development through to birth, focusing particularly on how their fatty acid profile affects the likelihood of preterm delivery.

about the research

The team’s work so far has showed that an abnormal fatty acid profile could predict preterm delivery.

In order to correct the fatty acid profile by dietary intervention or giving fatty acid supplements, we need to understand what fatty acid profile we are aiming to achieve. The team is therefore studying the samples collected so far to define the fatty acid profile that is associated with a normal pregnancy outcome.To do this, the research group is using the large set of samples collected from ‘low risk’ women who are pregnant for the first time, at 12 and 28 weeks into their pregnancy. At each point of sample collection, the maternal fatty acid, metabolomic and lipidomic profiles are investigated, harnessing discovery science to accurately phenotype different profiles of women.

Once this optimum fatty acid profile has been defined, the next steps will be to perform a randomised study to correct fatty acid profiles – and to understand whether this can reduce the risk of preterm delivery.

Ultimately, this study will help us identify potential diagnostic markers of risk and develop predictive algorithms with which to screen all women in early pregnancy and, potentially, before conception.

meet the scientists

PhD graduate AnnieBelle Sassine has studied the mechanisms involved in the transfer of maternal fatty acids to the fetus, understanding the roles of the key placental transporters.

PhD student Noushin Masoudi is continuing AnnieBelle’s work, studying the best way to correct a fatty acid imbalance and the impact of changing the fatty acid profile on the maternal immune system.


  • Difficult decisions were made to curtail the scope of the 2000 women study, reducing the time points from 12, 20 28 and 36 weeks to 12 and 28 weeks; and the number of women to be recruited from 2,000 to 1,000.
  • However, recruitment to the study is now complete, and the last of the 28-week samples taken. This means that the team can has begun sample analysis, and is waiting for the outcomes of the pregnancies.
  • The valuable bank of samples that the team has collected is also enabling the development of other studies and scientific collaborations in related research fields.

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