“Knowledge about the causes and consequences of insulin resistance are essential in order to give the best possible treatment. My ultimate goal is therefore to establish a Centre of Pregnancy and Diabetes, based on collaboration between obstetricians and endocrinologist.”
How do we offer the best possible treatment for pregnant women with diabetes and at the same time uncover the underlying causes? That is the question that drives associate professor Ulla Kampmann Opstrup, born 1976. Her research focuses on the field of severe insulin resistance, its unknown consequences and varying manifestations.
During pregnancy maternal tissues becomes progressively desensitized to insulin, and approximately five percent of Danish women develop an insulin resistance that requires medical supervision – gestational diabetes mellitus. In many cases, medical intervention may also be necessary in order to prevent metabolic dysfunction in both mother and child.
“Over a ten-year period, half of mothers who have had gestational diabetes mellitus will develop diabetes, especially type 2 and the problem is increasing as mothers are getting older and more overweight before becoming pregnant. We also know that children who spend their fetal stage in a sugary environment have an increased risk of developing diabetes, but so far neither causes nor consequences have been documented in detail,” says Ulla Kampmann Opstrup, whose career has benefitted from an ongoing interaction between research and daily clinical life.
Ulla Kampmann Opstrup started as a PhD student at the Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine in 2007, and since then she has performed several clinical projects. In 2016 she was awarded a postdoc scholarship from the Danish Diabetes Academy and a chance to concentrate on her own research field while broadening her network.
Currently, she and her colleagues are searching for hormonal and inflammatory factors that can explain the disorder. In the near future Ulla Kampmann Opstrup will, among other things, begin a study that assesses the cardiovascular consequences of treatment with high doses of insulin during pregnancy.
“Knowledge about the causes and consequences of insulin resistance are essential in order to give the best possible treatment,” says Ulla Kampmann Opstrup. “My ultimate goal is therefore to establish a Centre of Pregnancy and Diabetes, based on collaboration between obstetricians and endocrinologist.”
The idea of treating patients and doing research within the field of pregnancy and diabetes at the same time was strengthened when Ulla Kampmann Opstrup in 2019 was afforded a clinical internship at Mater Hospital University of Queensland in South Brisbane where she was introduced to the specialty obstetric medicine, where the primary focus is exactly the pregnant women.