February 14, 2011

Why Hormone Prevents Preterm Birth

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Researchers have identified three proteins that are partly responsible for the success of progesterone treatments in the prevention of preterm labor.

The proteins -- known as XIAP, BID and Bcl-2 --prevent preterm birth by hindering apoptosis (the normal, orderly death of cells) in fetal membranes. Stronger, thicker fetal membranes are less likely to rupture prematurely and lead to premature delivery, according to the study authors.

More than half a million babies are born preterm each year in the United States. Preterm birth, which is defined as delivery before 37 weeks of pregnancy, costs the U.S. more than $26 billion annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive often face lifelong health challenges.

The current study was led by Errol R. Norwitz, M.D., Ph.D., Ob/Gyn-in-Chief at Tufts Medical Center and chairman of Obstetrics/Gynecology at Tufts University School of Medicine.

"Dr. Norwitz's research adds to our basic understanding of what triggers labor, how the fetal membranes rupture and the role progesterone plays," Alan R. Fleischman, M.D., medical director of the March of Dimes, was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting in San Francisco, Feb. 10, 2011