Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Research: Some Infants Prone to Early Birth

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Research: Some Infants Prone to Early Birth

Article excerpt

Some babies may be predisposed to being born prematurely -- meaning their DNA causes them to be born too soon, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Joseph Biggio, professor and director of the UAB division of maternal-fetal medicine in the Department of Obstetrics, recently analyzed the number of copies of certain segments of DNA in the blood or saliva of hundreds of babies and their mothers. His research found that a baby was anywhere from two to 11 times more likely to be born before 34 weeks of gestation if a certain four genes were duplicated or if any seven genes were deleted.

"These findings may help explain what triggers early labor in some women even when they've done everything right during pregnancy and there's no obvious cause for an early birth," said Dr. Edward R.B. McCabe, March of Dimes chief medical officer, in a statement. "The hope is that this finding may one day lead to a screening test to help identify which babies are at a higher risk of an early birth."

Biggio was recognized last week in San Diego by the March of Dimes, receiving the Best Research in Prematurity award.

The genes may not directly cause a preterm birth, but they could make the baby more susceptible to an infection or other environmental factors that trigger early labor, Biggio said.

"We don't know exactly that it's the genes in these areas," Biggio said. "It may be something else, but these changes are in the areas of these genes, and that's certainly the first place to start looking."

It may also help explain why treatment with progesterone, a naturally occurring hormone in pregnancy shown to prevent some preterm births, works for only about one-third of women.

"We think we are treating the mother with progesterone, but perhaps we are actually treating the baby or changing the fetal- immune response," Biggio said. …

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