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Spina Bifida: Research

Volume 478: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much his Department spent on research into spina bifida in each of the last three years. (213565)

Over the last 10 years, the main part of the Department's total expenditure on health research has been devolved to and managed by national health service organisations. Details of individual NHS supported research projects undertaken during that time, including a number concerned with spina bifida, are available on the archived national research register at

The Department's Policy Research Programme has at the same time funded the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, the Northern Congenital Abnormality Survey, and the Congenital Abnormality Register for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, each of which has undertaken work of relevance to spina bifida

The Medical Research Council (MRC) is one of the main agencies through which the Government support medical and clinical research. The MRC is an independent body that receives its grant in aid from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The MRC funded three projects relevant to spina bifida between 2004-05 and 2006-07 at a total cost of £1.4 million, and has recently awarded a grant of £606,000 for research aimed at understanding the molecular causes and mechanisms of prevention of inositol-preventable neural tube defects.

In 1991, an MRC-funded randomised, controlled trial showed that folic acid supplements protect women with a prior pregnancy affected by spina bifida from recurrence. This research resulted in 10 per cent. of the world's flour being fortified with folic acid, preventing thousands of cases of serious birth deformities and saving large sums of money in health care costs.