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March of Dimes provides $2.4 million in new funding for preterm birth research

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., MARCH 8, 2011 With the help of funding from the March of Dimes, scientists will study whether low doses of inhaled carbon monoxide may prevent inflammation that triggers preterm labor, analyze the role genes play in causing preterm delivery, and develop blood tests to help identify women at risk of preterm delivery.

These topics are among the work of five researchers that will be supported for the next three years by new March of Dimes Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI) grants. The nearly $2.4 million in new grants is being given out by the March of Dimes to support scientific efforts to predict and prevent preterm birth. These 2011 grants bring the seven-year-old program's grant total to nearly $20 million.

Louis J. Muglia, MD, PhD, the Edward Claiborne Stahlman professor, Department of Pediatrics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN, has been among the PRI grantees since the program began in 2005. Dr. Muglia has been working to identify genes that play a role in the timing of both full-term and preterm labor and delivery. He is applying genome-wide association technology to identify new therapies for prevention.

Nazeeh N. Hanna, MD, chief of neonatology and associate professor, Department of Pediatrics, Winthrop University Hospital, Mineola, NY, is examining whether low doses of inhaled carbon monoxide, known to be toxic in high doses but protective in low doses, can prevent preterm labor associated with infection.

"New research is critical if we hope to continue the recent two-year decline of our nation's preterm birth rate," said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. "We're proud to continue our support of grantees such as Dr. Muglia, and Dr. Hanna, with the hope that they will build on what we already know about the causes and prevention of prematurity so that more babies will get a healthy start in life."

Preterm birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy, remains a leading cause of infant death in the United States. Infants who survive an early birth are more likely to face serious and sometimes lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, developmental delays, vision loss and cerebral palsy.

Following three decades of increases, in 2008 the nation saw the first two-year decline in the preterm birth rate, to 12.3 percent. Despite the improvement, more than half a million babies are born too soon each year.

The March of Dimes has maintained an unwavering commitment to reducing the number of infants born preterm.

In addition to Dr. Muglia and Dr. Hanna, the 2011 PRI grant recipients are:

  • John J. Moore, MD, professor, Department of Pediatrics and Reproductive Biology, the MetroHealth Medical Center Campus of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH; will examine what causes the fetal membranes the bag of waters to weaken and rupture.

  • Carole R. Mendelson, PhD, professor, Department of Biochemistry, Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; will examine how microRNAs involved in inflammation affect the timing and start of labor.

  • Leslie Myatt, PhD, professor, in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Research, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio; will study how the intra- and extra-uterine environments turn genes on and off and influence the timing of uterine contractions and the length of pregnancy.


Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Foundation

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