A type of mother's immune cells called B lymphocytes may help to resist preterm births triggered by inflammation, finds a new study from Wayne State University.
Preterm birth or premature birth is the birth of a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is the number one cause for infant death and long-term illnesses. Infection of the mother and inflammation during pregnancy are common triggers for preterm births.
‘A type of immune cells called B lymphocytes in the mother may help to suppress uterine inflammation and preterm births.’
The research study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.
According to Kang Chen, Ph.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the School of Medicine, B lymphocytes make antibodies to defend the body against infections, but scientists and clinicians have always thought these cells are rare or absent in the uterine lining and not important for pregnancy.
Chen's lab discovered that in late pregnancy, mothers' B lymphocytes not only reside in the uterine lining in both humans and mice, but also detect inflammation and uterine stress, which are major causes of preterm birth, and in turn, produce molecules -- including one called PIBF1 -- to suppress uterine inflammation and premature birth.
"This study not only reveals the long-neglected function of B lymphocytes in promoting healthy pregnancy, but also supports therapeutic approaches of using B lymphocyte-derived molecules -- such as PIBF1 -- to prevent or treat preterm birth," said Chen.
Chen's team has performed proof-of-concept and efficacy studies in animal models, and with the help of the Wayne State University's Technology Commercialization Office, filed a patent for this potential therapeutic approach.
"It is truly remarkable that Kang has independently convened and led a team of outstanding scientists to accomplish this original and impressive tour de force, especially considering the many challenges he has encountered in the process," said Chen's collaborators, who included scientists and clinicians from Wayne State University, Beaumont Hospital Dearborn, Yale University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Washington University in St. Louis and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The lead authors are Wayne State postdoctoral fellows Bihui Huang and Azure Faucette, who have both assumed independent positions in academia.