UC San Francisco has been awarded a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant of $2.7 million over three years for a collaborative project aimed at reducing premature births.
The funding will allow the UCSF team to continue to pursue development of the Smart Diaphragm, a wireless monitoring and warning system for early signs of preterm birth.
Globally, about 15 million babies are born prematurely, according to the World Health Organization, leading to death or lifetime disabilities. It is the leading cause of infant mortality worldwide, amounting to more than one million deaths annually. Preterm birth also poses an enormous medical cost to society, exceeding $26 billion annually in the United States alone, according to estimates from the Institute of Medicine.
Yet, when detected early and treated, preterm labor can be prevented or delayed.
"Labor is a long and mostly silent cascade of events that culminates with the uterus trying to expel the fetus," said principal investigator Larry Rand, MD, who holds the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Maternal Fetal Medicine at UCSF.
"One key silent event is the transformation of the cervix," Rand said. "Throughout most of pregnancy it is a long, tough, protective barrier at the opening of the uterus. When labor approaches, the cervix begins to soften, shorten and thin out, before becoming an open gateway for the baby to enter our world."
The Smart Diaphragm is a low-cost device that aims to detect changes in cervical tissue earlier than current techniques, which primary involve ultrasound imaging to detect cervical shortening. Rather than examining macroscopic changes in cervical tissue length, the device measures microscopic changes in cervical tissue, such as the breakdown of collagen that precedes the cervical shortening. Measurements from the device are transmitted to a "cloud" database monitored by clinicians. If a patient is at risk of preterm birth and in nee
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University of California - San Francisco