Touching Lives - October 2010
Proteins identified to help prevent preterm delivery
A lack of understanding about what starts labour and which proteins are involved in controlling contractions have hindered efforts to stop premature births. But doctors now understand more about what causes preterm delivery thanks to a project funded by Action Medical Research.
Dr Joanne Lymn and her team have identified two proteins, phospholipase Cgamma and transglutaminase II, which may be important in regulating contractions. The former protein in particular was found to be specifically associated with labour.
Using drugs that inhibited the activity of transglutaminase II enabled researchers to stop contractions in biopsies of human uterine wall. This suggests that these proteins could provide new targets for medication aimed at delaying preterm labour.
Preterm delivery affects up to 15 per cent of pregnancies. Preventing early contractions could increase survival rates and improve the health of newborn babies.