New projects use novel techniques to research causes and prevention of preterm birth
24 OCTOBER | SEATTLE
Two new research projects that aim to discover ways to detect women at risk of preterm birth and develop innovative techniques to prolong their pregnancies have been announced by the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's. Every year, more than 15 million babies are born prematurely worldwide. More than 1 million of those babies do not survive infancy, and millions more suffer long-term health effects.
The research projects are part of the Preventing Preterm Birth initiative (PPB), a Grand Challenge in Global Health administered by GAPPS. The PPB seeks to discover biological mechanisms that lead to preterm birth and develop novel interventions for prevention. It is supported by a $20 million award to GAPPS from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Five awards to other research projects have already been made by the PPB.
Kristina Adams Waldorf, MD, and David Eschenbach, MD, at the University of Washington, will determine the effect of disturbances in the vaginal microbiome on preterm birth. Their research will investigate how specific vaginal bacterial infections and changes in the female reproductive tract are associated with preterm birth. The long-term goal is to identify new ways for early identification and treatment of women at risk of preterm birth and develop a point-of-care diagnostic test appropriate for low-resource settings, which would function much like a home pregnancy test, indicating an elevated risk of premature birth. Results could be imaged using a cell phone, sent to the laboratory, and results returned by text messages.
Stephen Lye, PhD, of the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and his team will initiate a pilot study that will use a systems biology analysis of genomic, proteomic and plasma markers to identify novel pathways and biomarkers to preterm birth, as well as define the risk of preterm birth in pregnant women. Previous efforts to identify pathways or biomarkers associated with preterm birth have focused on single methodological approaches. With new capabilities in computational analyses, it is now possible to integrate information from multiple analytic techniques - collectively known as systems biology - to derive informative pathways and potential diagnostic biomarkers.
Dr Craig Rubens, Executive Director of GAPPS believes “these two new research projects will yield impactful findings and developments in the fight to prevent preterm birth”.
The Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS), an initiative of Seattle Children's, leads a collaborative, global effort to increase awareness and accelerate innovative research and interventions that will improve maternal, newborn and child health outcomes around the world.
Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children's hospital in the United States (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). Children's serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children's Research Institute and Seattle Children's Hospital Foundation.