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Genes May Influence Preterm Births

Findings could lead to preventive treatment, researchers say

THURSDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've discovered genetic traits in mothers and fetuses that appear to boost the risk of premature labor and delivery.

The traits are found in genes that regulate inflammation -- the immune system's response to invaders -- and the material that holds cells within tissues.

"A substantial body of scientific evidence indicates that inflammatory hormones may play a significant role in the labor process," Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, acting director of the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in an agency news release. "The current findings add evidence that individual genetic variation in that response may account for why preterm labor occurs in some pregnancies and not in others."

Researchers report that the findings could help doctors discover which women are at most risk for premature birth and then be able to help them postpone delivery until an appropriate time.

The findings were to be presented Thursday in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

According to the researchers, premature birth can cause a long list of problems, ranging from blindness and learning disabilities to death.

For the study, they analyzed genes from 229 women and 179 premature infants in Chile. All of the women were Hispanic.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more on premature labor and birth.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, news release, Feb. 4, 2010

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