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The Background on Labor Contractions

November 24, 2008

New insight into what happens to the uterus muscles during pregnancy may offer a therapy for preterm labor, the most serious complication of pregnancy in developing countries.

During pregnancy, the muscles in the uterus are relatively inactive. When a woman goes into labor, the body is activated to produce strong contractions. Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H., have uncovered new information about the priming of uterine muscles for contraction.

They say prostacyclin, a molecule that normally binds IP in vivo, prepares the uterus muscles, which allows for strong contractions during labor. The group analyzed human uterine tissue strips from pregnant woman delivering by Caesarean section before the natural labor process began. The protein IP on the surface of the muscle cells were stimulated by chemicals, which produce proteins that induce muscle contraction. In addition, in the presence of the hormone oxytocin, the chemicals enhanced contraction.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2008

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