Posts Tagged ‘Prematurity Research Center’

March of Dimes-funded researchers have identified genes involved in preterm birth

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Premature birth is a complex problem with no single solution. Each year, about 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely, and more than one million of them will die. Over 50 percent of the time, the cause of premature birth is not known. However, scientists have always believed that genetic factors play a role. A new study led by the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center-Ohio Collaborative, is the first to provide strong information as to what some of those genetic factors are. The team identified six genes that influence the length of pregnancy and the timing of birth. The findings were published Sept. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

This international team of researchers looked at the DNA of 50,000 pregnant women from around the world. The identification of these six gene regions allowed scientists to learn that:

  • The cells within the lining of the uterus play a larger-than-suspected role in the length of pregnancy.
  • Low levels of selenium—a common dietary mineral found in some nuts, certain green vegetables, liver and other meats—might affect the risk of preterm birth. Future studies will look at selenium levels in pregnant women who live in areas with low selenium in their diet or soil.

The six genes that have been identified can now be studied in more detail. The population of women in this study was mostly from Europe. Researchers are already trying to determine if these gene associations are the same for women from Africa and Asia.

Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s and principal investigator of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center–Ohio Collaborative stated, “This is just the beginning of the journey, but we think it leads to an exciting horizon where we can really make a difference in human pregnancy.”

The March of Dimes believes that these new findings will lead to new diagnostic tests, medications, improved dietary supplements or other changes that could help more women have full-term pregnancies and give more babies a healthy start in life.

Our fifth prematurity research center has launched!

Monday, June 15th, 2015

AA010686The new collaborative, which launched earlier this month includes the University of Chicago, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Duke University School of Medicine. The researchers will work to identify genes that help to make sure a woman has a full-term pregnancy. They are also looking at how stress, including how a woman’s lifelong exposure to discrimination or poverty, may influence those genes.

The March of Dimes has invested a total of $75 million over 10 years towards five research centers. Each center will focus on different aspects of the causes of preterm birth in the hopes of preventing women from going into labor too early. Babies born too early can face serious long-term health problems.

Our first center opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011, followed by the Ohio Collaborative, a partnership of universities in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, which launched in 2013. In November of last year we launched our third and fourth centers at Washington University, St. Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri and at the University of Pennsylvania respectively.

All five of our prematurity research centers will work together and share findings to determine the cause of preterm birth so that more babies can have a healthy start. Learn more about our newest research collaborative here.

March of Dimes’ researchers hard at work

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Did you know that in 2014, the March of Dimes invested about $25 million in research to defeat premature birth and other health problems? Scientific research has been a main focus of the March of Dimes since it was founded 75 years ago. March of Dimes-funded researchers created the first safe and effective vaccines for epidemic polio, and we haven’t stopped trying to improve the health of all babies since then.

The March of Dimes has pioneered genetic research, promoted the B vitamin folic acid to prevent birth defects, fought for lifesaving newborn screening tests– and so much more. Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes birth defects in 8,000 babies each year. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby before or during birth. The March of Dimes is funding research on protecting against CMV in women of childbearing age, thereby protecting babies.
  • Novel gene therapy: Scientists have long been seeking to develop gene therapy. However, they have run into a number of obstacles. A recent March of Dimes grantee is attempting to find a new way around these obstacles. He is using a novel form of gene therapy called “gene editing.” Instead of replacing the faulty gene, this new technology attempts to find and fix the mutation (change) in the gene.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to help families have full-term, healthy babies. We now have two Prematurity Research Centers –Stanford University and the Ohio Collaborative. These transdicsiplinary centers recognize that preterm birth is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. At both centers, scientists are coming together to examine the problem of preterm birth from many angles. Some highlights of ongoing research include:

  • Progesterone signaling in pregnancy maintenance and preterm birth: Progesterone is a key pregnancy hormone. It is thought to play a role in preventing contractions until term, but we don’t know how it does this. Progesterone treatment is one of the few available treatments to help prevent repeat singleton preterm delivery in women who have already had a premature birth. However, we do not know why progesterone treatment works in some women but not others. A better understanding of the exact role progesterone plays in maintaining pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent or treat preterm labor.
  • Microbiome and preterm birth: The microbiome refers to the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies. Recent genetic technologies (DNA sequencing) have identified many new organisms, most of which don’t harm our health. Scientists are analyzing changes in the microbiome in samples from term and preterm pregnancies. The goal is to find out if specific microbes or changes in the microbiome may contribute to premature birth. This information could lead to better ways to predict and prevent premature birth.

The March of Dimes expects to open two additional Prematurity Research Centers in the near future.  You can read more about our infant health, birth defects, and prematurity research on our website.  The March of Dimes continues to do all it can to give every baby a healthy start in life.

 

Prematurity research center at Stanford

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

March of Dimes, whose mission is to give every baby a healthy start, has launched an exciting new research program in partnership with Stanford University, one of the premier research intuitions in the world. This video demonstrates the commitment and enthusiasm of some of the 130 renowned medical and biological researchers embarking on a unique transdisciplinary approach to put an end to premature birth.

 

Prematurity research center

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The March of Dimes and Stanford University School of Medicine today launched the nation’s first transdisciplinary research center dedicated to identifying the causes of premature birth. Prematurity is the number one reason for newborn death in the United States today, yet in nearly half of the cases of premature birth, there is no identifiable cause.

The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center at Stanford University School of Medicine will bring together specialists in disciplines ranging from neonatology and genetics to computer science and artificial intelligence. This unique, transdisciplinary team will be the first group of experts from diverse fields to work together so closely to study prematurity.

“This transdisciplinary approach is important because we have to address all the factors that might contribute to a mother delivering a baby early,” said Dr. David Stevenson, Professor of Pediatrics and, by courtesy, of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital who will serve as principal investigator for the new research center.

The March of Dimes has contributed $2 million toward the launch of the Prematurity Research Center in 2011 and will provide support for the project through 2020. A March of Dimes scientific review committee will evaluate the research progress annually and help shape its direction.  To read more about this exciting new center and the four key areas of focus for the initial research, visit this link.