New research shows that an injection could cut premature birth rate by a third

Tommy’s Professor Andy Shennan says this research is important and novel but stresses the need for further research to see if this is a safe strategy.

Premature baby in incubator.

Tommy’s news, 05/01/2017

Premature birth is extremely stressful for parents, and it can lead to their baby suffering lifelong health and development problems.

In the UK, 60,000 babies are currently born prematurely every year. A study found that 45% of those born before 26 weeks went on to have serious cognitive impairment.

Excitingly, new research from Wayne State University in Michigan USA has found an injection that could prevent babies from being born too soon.

Scientists have found a protein (PIBF1) that can stop the immune system triggering early labour, something it is believed that can be triggered by infection.

The protein is present in the womb lining and reacts to stress by acting as a check, potentially preventing a woman going into labour. It was found that women who gave birth prematurely had significantly less of this protein than those who didn’t.

Professor Andy Shennan, Clinical Director of Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic, said that this study is extremely positive but also cautioned that more research is needed.

‘Preventing pre-term birth remains an enigma and any research that clarifies the mechanism to provide treatment targets is welcomed. This research is important and novel. However, as inflammation can be an important response to infection, more research is needed to ascertain if this is a safe strategy.’

So far the injection has only been given to nine pregnant mice with infections; in each case it prevented early birth.

Lead author of the research Professor Kang Chen estimates that the treatment could be trialled on women within five years.

‘We didn’t know much about what these cells did in pregnancy – we didn’t even know they existed in the lining of the womb. Now we know they promote healthy pregnancy, which fills an important hole in our knowledge. If the trials are successful, we could treat pregnant women with infection, or those at risk of infection, before babies are even put at risk.’

Scientists are estimating that if this research could help prevent more than a third of premature births.

This is an important step as preterm birth not only puts babies at risk of health problems; it is also the leading cause of neonatal death in the UK.

We hope that this research is a significant step in the right direction towards preventing this heartache for parents both in the UK and across the globe.

If you or someone you love is at risk of premature birth, you can read our information and advice pages about premature birth and the days, weeks and months after here.

If you want to read more about developments in prematurity research you can read our interview with Professor Andy Shennan here.

You can read the original article here.


Read about Tommy's prematurity research projects

Read about caring for your premature baby

Was this information useful?

Yes No