A 'biobank' to study the genetics of premature birth

A woman's genetic code can influence how likely she is to have a preterm birth. We have tested ways of collecting samples so that we can set up a 'biobank' to look at the genes involved.

A woman's genetic code can change the way she responds to treatments to prevent premature birth. We want to set up a 'biobank' - a collection of biological samples from mothers and children – so that we can study how genes influence the risk of preterm birth.

To do this, we needed to find the best way of involving pregnant women in the study, and of collecting and looking at the samples. We tested whether recruiting women by post would be possible: to do this, we sent invitations to 711 women who had taken part in the OPPTIMUM trial. 205 women responded positively, and were sent packets for collection of saliva samples from themselves and their baby. The women were also asked to fill in a short questionnaire.

In total, around 23% of mothers and 19% of mother and baby pairs who we invited to take part returned their samples. For most of the mother's saliva samples, we were able to get enough information about their DNA to carry out more work. However, we were not able to do this with most of the samples from babies.

The results from this study show that postal recruitment and collection works for adults, but does not give good results when used to get samples from infants. The samples we collected will now be used in a larger study to test if differences in a woman's genes change her response to a particular hormone, progesterone. 

Researchers

Sarah Stock, Heather MacPherson, Jane Norman

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Funding

This study is fully funded by Tommy's and takes place in a Tommy's centre

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