Grantees Search for Genetic Links to Predict and Prevent Premature Birth

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New Research Seeks To Prevent Preterm Birth With March Of Dimes


WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., March 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Five

researchers seeking to understand the causes of premature birth with

the goal of identifying women at risk of preterm labor and developing

new treatments to prevent it have been awarded grant support from the

March of Dimes.

The researchers, from the United States and Canada, are seeking to

understand what role genetic variations, infection, fetal lung

development and changes cervical ripening may play in triggering

preterm labor. They have been awarded 2014 March of Dimes Prematurity

Research Initiative (PRI) Grants to advance their work in the

prevention of premature birth.

More than 450,000 babies - one out of every nine - are born too soon

each year in the U.S. Preterm birth is a serious health problem that

costs the nation more than $26 billion annually, according to the

Institute of Medicine, and the leading cause of newborn death. Babies

who survive an early birth are at an increased risk for breathing

problems, cerebral palsy, intellectual and developmental disabilities,

vision and hearing loss, and other lifelong health problems. In 2012,

the U.S. preterm birth dropped to 11.5 percent rate, the lowest in 15

years, but still above the March of Dimes goal of 9.6 percent.

"Prevention is the way to save babies from the death and disability

caused by preterm birth," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the

March of Dimes. "Research is the key that will provide new insights

into the many unknown causes of preterm labor, and help doctors

recognize the women and babies most at risk."

The March of Dimes PRI grants total nearly $27 million over its

10-year history. The PRI grants are one of several March of Dimes

grant programs available to researchers.

The 2014 PRI grantees include:

-- James Padbury, MD, of Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in

Providence, who is using bioinformatics and the findings of the Human

Genome project to identify genetic variations and gene interactions to

understand how they interact with a woman's environment to influence

her risk of preterm birth.

-- Mala Mahendroo, PhD, of the University of Texas Southwestern

Medical Center in Dallas, is working to understand cervical changes

and how they trigger labor. She hopes to identify key steps in normal

cervical ripening, as well as differences that may be caused by

infection and other factors that trigger preterm labor.

-- Carole R. Mendelson, PhD, of The University of Texas Southwestern

Medical Center in Dallas, is identifying proteins produced by the

maturing fetal lungs that signal that the baby is ready to be born. A

previous study found that one major lung protein, surfactant

protein-A, acts as a hormonal signal that labor is beginning.

-- Stephen Lye, PhD, of the Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, is

determining the effectiveness of probiotics as well as of a new class

of drugs (broad spectrum chemokine inhibitors) in preventing

inflammation and preterm birth associated with uterine infection. This

research will build upon Dr. Lye's previous study that infection

triggers inflammatory proteins that can help initiate uterine


-- Daniel Dufort, PhD, of McGill University in Montreal, is seeking to

determine whether genetic mutations in a gene (Nodal) increase a

woman's risk of preterm labor.

The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy

and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have

benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and

breakthroughs. Find out how you can help raise funds to prevent

premature birth and birth defects by walking in March for Babies at Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. The

2014 March for Babies is sponsored nationally by the March of Dimes

number one corporate supporter Kmart, Macy's, Famous Footwear, Cigna,

Sanofi Pasteur, Mission Pharmacal, United Airlines, and Actavis.

SOURCE March of Dimes

-0- 03/06/2014

/CONTACT: Elizabeth Lynch, (914) 997-4286,, Todd Dezen, (914) 997-4608,

/Web Site:

CO: March of Dimes




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