Blocking single molecule may delay premature birth: study

The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Los Angeles: Scientists have identified a molecule in the uterus that can be blocked to delay or even halt premature birth, the leading cause of death and disability in newborns worldwide.

More than 10 per cent of all infants are born prematurely after less than 37 weeks of pregnancy, researchers said. About 3 per cent are born quite prematurely, after less than 31 weeks of pregnancy, said study co-senior author David Cornfield, from the Stanford University in California.

Many organs, including the brain, lungs and liver need the final weeks of pregnancy to fully develop. Premature birth can thus lead to major problems.

During pregnancy, the womb shelters a growing foetus. When a woman goes into labour, the uterus experiences powerful contractions to push out the baby.

It remains poorly understood as to what makes the womb begin the labour process. There is currently no effective treatment for premature labour.

Previous research suggested that calcium levels of muscle cells within the walls of the uterus help control womb contractions.

The researchers focused on a molecule found in the mouse uterus known as TRPV4, which helps control the flow of calcium into cells, 'Live Science' reported.

They found that uterine tissue from pregnant women possessed higher levels of TRPV4 than non-pregnant women.

Similarly, as pregnancy advanced in mice and rats, TRPV4 became increasingly abundant in the uterine wall muscle cells of these rodents.

Prior studies have identified molecules that could block TRPV4, preventing it from allowing calcium to enter cells.

In experiments where mice were given drugs known to set off premature labour, these inhibitor compounds significantly prolonged pregnancy and prevented premature labour.

"This advance can to be used to develop treatments to stop preterm labour, and perhaps to increase the efficacy of uterine contractions so as to decrease the need for cesarean sections," said Cornfield.

The research was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

( Source : PTI )
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