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Researchers Discover Cause Of Many Preterm Births

Update Date: May 14, 2014 08:07 AM EDT

The cause of many preterm births is the premature aging of the placenta due to oxidative stress, according to a new study. 

Researchers took fetal membranes and exposed them to oxidative stress in a lab setting. They observed that it did cause rapid aging of the placental tissue. 

Oxidative stress factors include environmental toxins and pollution. These are also an inevitable component of normal living. Researchers added that other factors such as smoking, drinking, poor nutrition and infection could be avoided. 

Researchers noted that antioxidants in the body control any damage caused by oxidative stress. However when oxidative stress become overwhelming, it triggers prematures placental aging, causing preterm birth, they said.

Antioxidant supplements during pregnancy have failed to reduce preterm births because the mechanisms of oxidative stress damage are still unclear, researchers said.

"This is the first study to look at and prove that oxidative stress induces senescence, or aging, in human fetal cells," said Dr. Ramkumar Menon, an assistant professor in the UTMB Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and lead researcher on the study, in the press release. "With more than 15 million pregnancies worldwide ending in preterm births, we can now move forward in discovering how this information may lead to better intervention strategies to reduce the risk of preterm birth."

Previously, studies suggested that infection is the major cause of preterm premature rapture of the membranes for which antibiotics are standard intervention. 

The current study provides evidence that there are other factors as well that should be looked for when that are causing spontaneous births.

The study appears in the American Journal of Pathology. 

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