Nearly half a million babies are born too soon each year in the United States.
Preterm birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy), is the leading cause of
newborn death and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk
of lifetime health challenges such as breathing problems, cerebral
palsy, intellectual disabilities and others.
Even babies born just a few
weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than
full-term infants. It is a serious health problem that costs the U.S.
more than $26 billion annually.
‘13 key genes in both mothers and babies which may be involved in preterm birth and 123 genes as top candidates for further study have been identified by researchers.’
Although many genetic studies of preterm birth have been conducted,
results have been inconsistent across populations.
In a study to be presented in the oral concurrent
session at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's
annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, researchers verified genetic
results from one large study of women with spontaneous preterm birth,
and highlighted 13 key genes in both mothers and babies which may be
involved in preterm birth while also identifying 123 genes as top
candidates for further study.
Tracy Manuck, associate professor of Maternal Fetal Medicine
and medical director of the University of North Carolina Prematurity
Prevention Clinic at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, is
the lead researcher and presenter of the study titled Use of
evolutionary triangulation to refine genetic association studies of
spontaneous preterm birth (SPTB). Manuck has been working to understand
which genes influence why some women deliver preterm but others do not.
hopes to use a new method for filtering results from genetic studies,
based on inheritance patterns across women of different ancestry, in
order to fine-tune results from other genetic studies of preterm birth.
This technique, termed "evolutionary triangulation," relies on the fact
that the rates of preterm birth vary significantly by race. In the
United States, black women are almost twice as likely to deliver preterm
as white women.
In addition to highlighting 13 key genes in mothers and babies which
may be involved in preterm birth, Dr. Manuck and colleagues also
examined 640 genes from an online preterm birth genetic database and,
using the evolutionary triangulation technique, highlighted 123
additional genes as top candidates for further study.
have great potential implications for future studies to identify women
at highest risk for spontaneous preterm birth," Manuck stated.
"Evolutionary triangulation is an exciting new way of thinking about
genetic data, and one day may be applied to other disorders of pregnancy
disproportionately affecting different populations of women."