March of Dimes and Washington University Launch Cutting Edge Prematurity Research Center

More than 8,000 Babies Born Too Soon in Missouri Each Year

St. Louis, Missouri | Monday, November 10, 2014

save print
e-mail

Washington University, St. Louis Children’s Hospital and March of Dimes officials announced the launch of a new March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center.

The March of Dimes will invest $10 million in the Prematurity Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis during the next five years. It is a collaborative, transdisciplinary, enterprise that provides a team-based research approach to discovering the causes of preterm birth in order to develop new strategies to prevent it. St. Louis Children’s Hospital, which since 2007, has offered a March of Dimes NICU Family Support Program to help families during their baby’s stay in the NICU, is also a partner in the research center.

“This new prematurity research center continues our commitment to solving the problem of preterm birth. Too many babies, here in Missouri and throughout the United States, are born too soon,” says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes “This center adds the expertise of Washington University’s leading scientists to a nationwide network of investigators whose discovery research will determine precisely what triggers early labor, and how it can be prevented.”

In Missouri, 11.3 percent, or more than 8,000 babies, are born too soon each year and the U.S. has one of the highest rates of preterm birth of any industrialized country.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive it have serious and sometimes lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss, and cerebral palsy.

“As an obstetrician for 23 years, I have seen the impact of preterm birth on many families," said George A. Macones, MD, primary investigator and the Mitchell and Elaine Yanow Professor and head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University. "We will not be able to prevent preterm birth until we can better understand the biological mechanisms that cause it. We are excited to partner with the March of Dimes on this Prematurity Research Center. With the science we will conduct, we hope to drastically reduce preterm birth in the U.S.”

“Although we send “miracle babies” home from St. Louis Children’s Hospital, many premature babies do not survive their early birth and many others end up with lifelong health problems, because they were born too soon,” F. Sessions Cole, III, MD, Chief Medical Officer, St. Louis Children's Hospital, Director of Newborn Medicine at Washington University, and a March of Dimes National Trustee added. “The research that this new center will support will find solutions and better ways to prevent premature birth so we can end this epidemic.”

This prematurity research center will create a profile of women who are high- risk for giving birth too soon. It will investigate how sleep patterns and other environmental factors change a woman’s risk for preterm birth and will document how the structure of the cervix changes throughout a pregnancy. It also is seeking to create images of uterine contractions.

The first prematurity research center opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011. The Ohio Collaborative, a partnership of the leading research centers in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland, launched in 2013. Two others are planned.

To learn more about the research center at Washington University in St. Louis visit: prematurityresearch.org/washu-stlouis

About March of Dimes

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.

For the latest resources and health information, visit our websites marchofdimes.org and nacersano.org. To participate in our annual signature fundraising event, visit marchforbabies.org. If you have been affected by prematurity or birth defects, visit our shareyourstory.org community to find comfort and support. For detailed national, state and local perinatal statistics, visit peristats.org. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.