New Research Helps Explain How Progesterone Prevents Preterm Birth
March of Dimes Awards Abstract at SMFM Meeting
San Francisco, California | Thursday, February 10, 2011
Research presented today at the 31st Annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) ― The Pregnancy Meeting™ has found that three proteins known as XIAP, BID, and Bcl-2 are responsible in part for the success of progesterone treatments in the prevention of preterm labor. They may also play an important role in triggering normal labor.
The proteins prevent preterm birth by hindering apoptosis – the normal, orderly death of cells -- in the fetal membranes. Stronger, thicker fetal membranes are less likely to rupture prematurely leading to premature delivery, according to the study led by Errol R. Norwitz, MD, PhD, Ob/Gyn-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center and chairman of Obstetrics/Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Norwitz also is a researcher with the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts Medical Center.
“Dr. Norwitz’s research adds to our basic understanding of what triggers labor, how the fetal membranes rupture and the role progesterone plays,” said Alan R. Fleischman, MD, medical director of the March of Dimes.
In the United States, more than half a million babies are born preterm each year. Preterm birth, before 37 weeks of pregnancy, is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive often face the risk of lifetime health challenges. Even infants born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants. The last few weeks of pregnancy are critical to a baby’s health because many important organs, including the brain, are not completely developed until then.
Today’s award-winning study, “Progesterone Inhibits Basal Apoptosis In Fetal Membranes By Altering Expression Of Both Pro- And Anti-Apoptotic Proteins,” is the eighth study by SMFM members to be honored by the March of Dimes for innovative research focused on preventing premature birth. The research was supported in part by a March of Dimes grant. March of Dimes is conducting a national Prematurity Campaign aimed at using research and awareness to reduce the increasing rate of premature birth.
The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (est. 1977) is a nonprofit membership group for obstetricians/gynecologists who have additional formal education and training in maternal-fetal medicine. The society is devoted to reducing high-risk pregnancy complications by educating its 2000 members on the latest pregnancy assessment and treatment methods. It serves as an advocate for improving public policy, and expanding research funding and opportunities for maternal-fetal medicine. The group hosts an annual scientific meeting in which new ideas and research in the area of maternal-fetal medicine are unveiled and discussed. For more information, visit www.smfm.org.
About March of Dimes
March of Dimes leads the fight for the health of all moms and babies. We support research, lead programs and provide education and advocacy so that every baby can have the best possible start. Building on a successful 80-year legacy of impact and innovation, we empower every mom and every family.