The Maternal Fetal Medicine Research Group applies advanced engineering techniques to Doppler ultrasound to improve perinatal imaging and outcomes. In addition, the application of continuous blood glucose monitoring technology to management of gestational diabetes. Our student projects cover general clinical obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine.

Our goals

We aim to develop, validate and introduce novel imaging technology to detect the at-risk fetus, in order to target in utero therapy or intervention.  We are exploring the use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) as a diagnostic tool for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and have undertaken numerous pilot studies in this area. CGM has the potential to be a superior and more highly individualised test than the oral glucose tolerance test to evaluate glycaemic control.

Research strengths

Our areas of research strength include: 

  • Application of the first non-invasive bedside tool for determination of vascularity / perfusion (three-dimensional fractional moving blood volume or 3D-FMBV that our team invented).
  • Functional fetal cardiology evaluation using automated Doppler techniques.
  • Application of infra-red camera tracking technology to evaluation of placental perfusion; plane-wave technology for visualisation of placental vascular using the Verasonics Vantage research ultrasound platform.
  • Our team is multidisciplinary, and cross-Faculty.
  • As a perinatal research group, we are fortunate to have both obstetric and neonatal researchers; two disciplines that work together so closely clinically but rarely collaborate directly for research.
  • We are unique in the strength of our engineering collaborations and we’re  of the first recipients of Biomedical Engineering Seed Funding through UNSW.
  • Based within the Royal Hospital for Women, we have direct access to patients allowing us to be constantly aware of why we are researching and how we might impact outcome for mothers and babies.  
  • We have a dedicated imaging research space with state-of-the-art ultrasound machines, including the Verasonics Vantage 256 ultrasound system (we are the only centre in Australia to have TGA approval).
  • We work closely with the clinical team of endocrinologists, obstetricians and diabetic educators in management of diabetes in pregnancy.

Our results

  • Developed the first non-invasive technique for measurement of perfusion using ultrasound (3D-FMBV).
  • 2022 funding from the Stillbirth Foundation of Australia for a pilot study looking at 3D-FMBV in prediction of the ‘at-risk’ fetus for stillbirth or intrapartum distress.
  • Using infra-red camera tracking we have been able to map for the first time multiple ultrasound volumes into a ‘total placental reconstruction’ which should facilitate demonstration of placental vascularity throughout the placenta. This work was funded by UNSW Biomedical Engineering Seed Funding.
  • A current PhD student has received a number of local grants for work into CGM in GDM.
  • Commencing an international multicentre study looking at fetal functional cardiology evaluation in the context of fetal heart disease.
  • Supervised over 50 UNSW Medicine Honours / Integrated Learning Project students on projects linked to the themes above or related to clinical obstetrics and maternal-fetal medicine. Further Engineering Honours students are based with our group. We have a number of PhD students, including those shared with the Faculty of Engineering. The integration of Engineering and Medicine undergraduate and postgraduate students creates a strong environment for innovation.

Our experts

Our affiliate partners

We’re in a unique position collaborating with a number of schools within the Faculty of Engineering on research including: 

  • Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering: Scientia Professor Nigel Lovell.
  • Professor Erik Meijering
  • School of Mechanical Engineering: Professor Tracie Barber
  • School of Computer Science: Professor Arcot Sowmya
  • School of Materials Science and Engineering: Professor Sean Li
  • A/Prof Danyang Wang

We collaborate with several international research groups within Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.