Hormone Could Save Babies - Progesterone Link Being Investigated
20 February 2006
Action Medical Research has announced details of a new study that could see progesterone being used to stop babies from being born too soon.
The £94,000 Glasgow based project is looking to understand how the hormone could cut the risk of preterm labour.
The team hopes that the results will ultimately find ways to stop some babies from being born prematurely.
Around 50,000 babies are born too early every year in the UK and, as a result, are at risk of a lifetime of health problems such as blindness, deafness and cerebral palsy as well as sometimes needing distressing and invasive treatment at birth.
Some premature babies have to spend weeks or even months in special care, which can be devastating for their families – even when the outcome is good.
Until now little has been known about why some mothers go into labour early. However, recent research has found that treating some women with progesterone can decrease their chances of giving birth too soon.
The University of Glasgow team, led by Professor Jane Norman, will be studying why early labour starts and will look at how progesterone could prevent it from happening.
Andrew Proctor of Action Medical Research welcomed the start of Professor Norman’s project saying, “We’re doing a lot of exciting work in this field since our £3 million Touching Tiny Lives Campaign is working towards stopping early birth and this project is looking at another very promising avenue.
“The more routes we find to preventing prematurity then the greater the chance of saving lives and preventing lifelong illness.
“Professor Norman and team are hoping to find a great deal of fundamental information on the role of white blood cells in triggering the birth process and how progesterone may be used to stall it.
“With one in every 14 babies being born too soon and more than 3,000 UK families devastated by the death of a baby every year this is an area of research that needs urgent attention.
“Doctors tell us that they are close to cures for prematurity but their only barrier is funding; so our fantastic supporters are doing everything they can to raise more money to help them.”
Professor Norman, who is one of the UK’s top experts in this field said, “We’re going to be studying mothers at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and the increase in knowledge that this will give us could help in developing new treatments that will save lives.
“This is a unique project that brings together immunology and obstetrics; in normal labour, white blood cells are activated in the bloodstream and migrate to the womb during the birthing process.
“Sometimes this can happen too soon and we believe that these cells might play a key role in triggering preterm labour. If this is the case then progesterone could stop this from happening by blocking the activation of white blood cells.”
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