"The ability to remotely detect cervical changes without an exam or imaging is a breakthrough for women all over the world," Rand said. "Cervical length is currently measured using ultrasound, and when a cervix is found to be short, treating with progesterone will prevent 40 percent of ensuing preterm births. Unfortunately, ultrasound is not an option for most women in low and middle income settings globally, given the expense and expertise necessary."
"Measuring microscopic precursors to labor in the cervix and tracking these changes across pregnancy could fundamentally change the way we think about preterm birth," said Shuvo Roy, PhD, co-principal investigator and professor of bioengineering at UCSF.
"Knowing preterm birth is imminent while a woman is asymptomatic opens a new window of opportunity for therapeutics," Roy said. "Drugs and interventions that are used now late in labor could yield more success if they are applied sooner. Earlier knowledge of preterm birth could also spur research and development of new therapeutics targeting this pre-labor window."
Currently a prototype Smart Diaphragm device is undergoing clinical testing at UCSF Medical Center. With this new phase of funding, the team will expand testing to more sites, including rural locations in South Africa, and miniaturize the device further to more closely resemble a pessary, which effectively "lifts" the cervix further away from the vaginal bacteria that appear to play a role in preterm birth in some women. Ultimately, the future device will be a "smart pessary," said the researchers.
Mozziyar Etemade, PhD, one of Roy's recently graduated students and currently a postdoctoral scholar jointly appointed between UCSF and UC Berkeley, is also a co-principal investigator in the project. He credits successes thus far to the project's "trainee-driven" natur
|Contact: Elizabeth Fernandez|
University of California - San Francisco