Pathways to Premature Labour | Action Medical Research | Children's Charity | Children's Charity

Looking for pathways that lead to premature labour

This research was completed on 30 April 2008

Project LeaderProfessor P R Bennett BSc, PhD, MD, FRCOG
LocationDivision of Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hosptial Campus, London
Grant awarded29 October 2004
Start date1 May 2005
End date30 April 2008
Grant amount£122,127.00
Grant codeSP3996

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Preterm labour is the major cause of infant death and disability but it is ‘early’ preterm delivery, before 32 weeks, which is of greatest importance. Of 600,000 live births per year in the UK, about 8,000 will be after early preterm labour, and at birth weights below 1500g . Of these, sadly 1600 will die, 600 will develop cerebral palsy and many others will have a variety of other disabilities. It is thought that most cases of early preterm birth are due to infection. This infection causes inflammation, the production of chemicals which can damage the body, and in particular lead to both brain damage in the baby and labour in the mother. However, although virtually all cases of preterm labour have evidence of inflammation in the fetal membranes (the sac holding waters around the baby) less than half have significant infection.These researchers believe that many cases of preterm labour are due to an inappropriate, exaggerated inflammatory reaction to only a trivial infection, which in most women would not lead to either preterm birth or brain damage in the baby. This reaction may be due to excessive activation of proteins called 'Toll-like receptors' which detect the presence of infection. The team plan to find out which Toll-like receptors are present in the fetal membranes, which ones are activated in preterm labour, how that relates to the presence of infection, and how Toll-like receptors activate inflammation. Investigating this will give a better understanding of what causes preterm birth and could help us to find out how to predict and to prevent it.

Read more about the outcome of this preterm labour project

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