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March of Dimes seeks answers to preterm birth

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. The March of Dimes Foundation awarded $3.5 million to 10 scientists who are trying to stem the growing pace of preterm birth by studying the role genes and heredity play in premature births and how the rate of fetal lung development, infection and other factors may trigger labor.

Since 2005, the March of Dimes has committed more than $11 million to its four-year-old Prematurity Research Initiative grant program.

The March of Dimes unveiled the names and the projects of the 10 scientists who are the 2008 grant recipients, including two whose work was funded in the first round of grant awards in 2005.

More than half a million babies one out of every eight are born too soon each year, and the numbers have risen steadily.

Most of the causes of preterm birth remain unknown. There is an urgent purpose for this research, said Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes. We continue to work toward a future when every baby is born healthy.

The 2008 PRI grantees include:

  1. Dr Louis Muglia of Washington University in St. Louis, a returning grantee, who is searching the genome to identify genetic variations that play key roles in the timing of spontaneous term and preterm delivery.

  2. Dr. Carol Mendelson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, another returning grantee, who is looking at the role of fetal lungs in triggering labor in mice.

  3. Dr. Hui-Ju Tsai at Childrens Memorial Hospital in Chicago, who is seeking to explain ethnic disparities in preterm birth rates by looking for genetic differences between African-American women who gave birth preterm and those who did not.

  4. Dr. Siladitya Bhattacharya, University of Aberdeen in Scotland, who studies information about grandmothers, mothers and daughters, to see if preterm birth is hereditary.

  5. Dr. Glenna C. L. Bett, State University of New York, University at Buffalo, who is studying the physical properties of uterine muscle as a way to develop a medical treatment that can delay or prevent preterm labor.

  6. Dr. Dror Harats at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel, who is using mice to explore the roles of certain maternal and fetal proteins in triggering spontaneous labor.

  7. Dr. David Arnold Relman, Stanford University and Palo Alto Institute for Research and Education in California, who is looking to identify obscure and elusive bacteria and other microbes that may cause preterm labor.

  8. Dr. Linda C. Giudice at the University of California, San Francisco, who is identifying obscure bacteria and other microbes in vaginal tissue to determine if they are associated with preterm delivery.

  9. Dr. Mark Philippe at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington, who, using mice, is exploring a basis for preventing preterm delivery by better understanding the immune systems response to infections during pregnancy.

  10. Dr. Leonardo Pereira at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, who is seeking to learn whether women with prior preterm births who are destined for recurrent preterm births can be identified by specific protein patterns in cervical-vaginal fluid.


Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Foundation

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