Looking at inflammation in the womb

A small protein could play a role in premature labour by causing inflammation.

Researchers supported by Tommy's have found that a small protein, cathelicidin, may play an important role in early labour by causing inflammation. Inflammation is usually the body’s way of protecting itself from harm. However, some of the changes that happen to the body during inflammation also take place when a woman goes into labour.   

Cathelicidin usually plays a role in the body’s immune response to harmful infections. However, we have also shown that the amount of cathelicidin in the womb and protective membranes surrounding the baby changes during labour. To look at this in more depth, we are now studying a similar protein in mice. We have found that if pregnant mice are exposed to conditions that cause inflammation, cathelicidin travels to the membranes around the baby.

Early studies suggest that after being exposed to a substance that causes inflammation, mice that make cathelicidin are more likely to go into premature labour than mice that don’t.

Understanding how cathelicidin plays a role in premature labour may help to develop drugs that can stop women from going into labour too early. 

Researchers

Sarah Stock, Tina Baker, Heather MacPherson, Jane Norman, Donald Davidson

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Funding

This study takes place in a Tommy's centre and is funded by Tommy's, the Medical Research Council, and the MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine

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