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Scientists Prevent Preterm Births in Mouse Models

Update Date: Aug 27, 2013 02:40 PM EDT

For children who are born prematurely, they might experience several health complications due to the fact that their organs have not fully developed at the time of the birth. Several studies have found that people who were born preterm have lower adult IQs (intelligence quotient), lower tests scores when they were children and more neurological impairments. Due to these lasting effects of prematurity, researchers have been studying ways to hopefully prevent preterm births. In a new study, scientists from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center reported that using a combinatory treatment method could prevent preterm births linked to gene-environment interactions in mouse models.

"Although gene-environment interactions are assumed to be major contributors to preterm birth, this concept had not been experimentally interrogated. Our studies in mice provide evidence that when a genetic predisposition is combined with mild inflammation, the rate of preterm birth is profoundly increased, provoking preterm birth in 100 percent of the females," Sudhansu K. Dey, Ph.D said according to a press release. Dey is the director of Reproductive Sciences at Cincinnati Children's. "The results are also clinically relevant because aspects of the molecular signatures observed in the mouse studies are consistent with those observed in tissue samples of women who had undergone preterm birth."

For this study, the researchers genetically created a mouse model with an inactive Trp53 gene in the uterus. Trp53 is responsible for encoding the protein, p53, which is tied to suppressing tumors and regulating cell growth and replication. The researchers discovered that by removing Trp53, the preterm birth rate for the mice rose by 50 percent. The researchers then gave the Trp53 deficient mice mild inflammation, which increased the rate for premature births up to 100 percent. After discovering certain triggers to preterm births, the researchers used a combined therapy that successfully prevented preterm births in the mice. 

Based from the findings, the researchers hope that treatment designed to target these areas could prevent some preterm births for humans. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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