Newborns set to make mark on science

A woman photographs another woman holding a newborn baby.
Emma-Louise and her newborn Harper participate in the BabyFace research project at FSH.
March 20, 2018

Newborns at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH) will make their mark on science, simply by having their faces photographed.

FSH Paediatric Registrar and researcher Dr Cathryn Poulton aims to capture the faces of at least 200 infants as part of the BabyFace Project which will be used to develop a tool to help doctors detect and diagnose rare diseases earlier.

Rare diseases are conditions usually genetic in origin, that affect fewer than one in 2 000 people, so are often very difficult to diagnose.

Cathryn will visit new parents at FSH over coming months, and with their permission capture images of their babies’ faces.

The photographs will help build a world-first database of images which will be used to determine facial variation across newborn populations and identify subtle facial variations that can be markers of rare diseases.

Health Minister Roger Cook said the research stands to make a big difference to many lives.

“This research could ultimately help ensure people with rare diseases are diagnosed earlier, enabling them to begin treatments earlier and have a better chance of improvement in their condition,” he said.

“While rare diseases are individually rare, collectively, they are estimated to affect about one in 12 Western Australians, about a third of them children.”

The BabyFace Project was one of 10 programs to receive State Government funding through the Registrar Research Fellowship.

The initiative is designed to enhance the research capability of the WA Health registrar workforce by enabling these doctors-in-training to pursue research alongside their clinical duties while under the supervision of senior clinician researchers.