February 5, 2010
Yale Researchers May Have Uncovered The Mechanism By Which Progesterone Prevents Preterm Birth
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine believe they may have discovered how the hormone progesterone acts to prevent preterm birth.
The findings will be presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) in Chicago by Errol Norwitz, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale.
One-third of preterm birth is linked to premature rupture of the fetal membranes. Prior studies have suggested that rupture results from weakening of the membranes by apoptosis (programmed cell death). Norwitz and his Yale colleagues have shown for the first time that progesterone can prevent apoptosis in fetal membranes.
"We were able to demonstrate that progesterone prevents apoptosis in an artificial environment in the laboratory in which we stimulated healthy fetal membranes with pro-inflammatory mediators," said Norwitz. "Interestingly, and somewhat unexpectedly, we also saw an inhibition of apoptosis under basal conditions without the presence of pro-inflammatory mediators. This suggests that the same mechanism may also be important for the normal onset of labor at term."
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