This article has been updated to include the amount of funding granted to the University of Nevada.
NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The March of Dimes is funding research at the University of Nevada School of Medicine that will seek to use gene expression studies involving a variant linked to preterm birth that could be developed into an early screening test.
The university said today that it will use $400,000 over three years, part of the March of Dimes’ $2.6 million in new preterm birth research funding, to continue studying a gene that may, if altered, be responsible for preterm births and could potentially be used in a preterm screening test.
The genetic variant found in the uterine muscle codes for dysfunction of normal relaxation signals. Early data for the study suggests that this gene is normally regulated by pregnancy and that expression of this variant may be a cause of preterm labor, according to the university.
Preterm birth, which affects over 543,000 babies in the US each year, is a leading cause of infant death in this country and it contributes to other lifelong health problems, according to the March of Dimes.
"The mechanism allowing the uterus to maintain a relaxed state during pregnancy is contributed by a particular protein and if we are right, we may be able to predict the likelihood of preterm birth even before conception," University of Nevada School of Medicine Professor Iain Buxton, who is lead investigator on the grant, said in a statement. "If this particular pathway can be manipulated to prevent premature contraction, it can lead to new treatments for preterm and can be a potential screening tool."