Parents of Sick and Premature Babies Get Help from New Program at University of Cincinnati Medical Center

Launch Marks One-Year Anniversary of Ohio Research Collaborative to Learn Unknown Causes of Prematurity

Cincinnati, Ohio | Monday, May 19, 2014

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A new program to support families with sick and premature babies hospitalized immediately after birth was unveiled at University of Cincinnati Medical Center (UCMC) today.

UCMC is a partner in the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center--Ohio Collaborative, a unique, team-based research initiative that brings together the brightest minds from many disciplines -- geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists and others -- to explore the unknown causes of early births. The Collaborative is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

“Today we celebrate the broad range of our prematurity initiatives,” said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, President of the March of Dimes. “As we celebrate the opening of this March of Dimes NICU Family Support® center and our work to help families cope with a very difficult emotional experience, we also salute the anniversary of our prematurity research collaborative here in Ohio. This Collaborative will help us find the answers to prevent preterm birth so that more babies will get a healthy start in life. One day, parents like those here today won’t have to leave the hospital without their babies.”

The March of Dimes intends to invest $10 million in its transdisciplinary prematurity research program over five years. Three more centers are planned to open in the next twelve months. The first opened at Stanford University School of Medicine in California in 2011.

Chairing the fundraising for the Ohio Collaborative are Steven G. Gabbe, MD, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Chief Executive Officer, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; and Patricia T. Gabbe, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Family Health and Healing and Senior Medical Advisor, The Ohio State University Health Plan.

Already the research investment is beginning to pay off, says Dr. Louis Muglia of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, coordinating principal investigator of the Ohio Collaborative. He noted that Ohio Collaborative researchers have begun to explain how genetics and the environment interact to trigger preterm labor, and how it might be prevented. Using mice with a genetic predisposition to preterm labor that had been exposed to a mild infection as a model system, the scientists prevented preterm birth with injections of the hormone progesterone along with an immunosuppressant. Progesterone is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a preventive treatment for preterm labor in women, but it does not work in all women, and the researchers hope their studies may help explain why this is so.

Another of the Collaborative’s investigators is working to explain racial disparities in preterm birth. African-American women are twice as likely as women from any other racial or ethnic background in the United States to deliver a preterm baby. But Somali-born women, who are of African descent, have one of the lowest rates of preterm birth. Working across the academic medical centers in Ohio, the Collaborative has implemented innovative strategies to share information and appropriate research tools and processes to study this phenomenon.

In addition, Dr. Muglia and colleagues will offer one-time clinical consultations to women at high risk of preterm birth, both before and during pregnancy, to help them better understand their risk factors and take steps to prevent a premature baby.

The March of Dimes NICU Family Support program is implemented in more than 130 hospitals across the country. It offers information, comfort and support to 92,000 parents in crisis with a baby in the newborn intensive care unit (NICU) to help them cope from birth through the transition home.

Partners in the Ohio Collaborative are:


  • University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center;
  • The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus;
  • Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and MetroHealth System, Cleveland.


Also participating in the program are investigators from Vanderbilt University, Tennessee; Dartmouth College, New Hampshire; University of Iowa; and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.


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.

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