Cincinnati Children’s discovery could reduce preterm birth risk

Cincinnati Children’s discovery could reduce preterm birth risk (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Local researchers have just made a discovery which could make a big difference in preventing babies from being born too early.

Researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital have made a huge discovery.

Not only have they found genes connected to preterm birth, but those genes might show everything from trouble zones for treatment to missing nutrients that mom needs.

What's critical for babies is what the team, led by Dr. Lou Muglia is looking into, and the team has just announced a huge discovery.

“It's really the first time we've been able to identify genes in the mom’s DNA information that tell us what factors predict a risk for preterm birth, and determine the length of pregnancy overall,” said Dr. Muglia.

His team has identified six different genes in a mother’s DNA new areas not known to researchers in this way before now.

“They not only tell us what gene regions they are but they give us pathways that give us strategies to prevent prematurity in the future,” said dr. Muglia.

The genes serve as a launching pad for important areas of research, from tests that could identify moms at risk to new areas in a mother’s body to target with medications.

But one thing that is also exciting to Dr. Muglia’s team has to do with a discovery in the genes that handle a common mineral called “selenium.”

“We kind of knew that it was important for human health in general but it had never been focused on in pregnancy,” said Dr. Muglia.

Dr. Muglia says that, just like with folic acid, if a mother doesn’t get enough of the foods with selenium, it's possible she's at higher risk for pre-term birth.

He points out that this research is still early and more studies need to be conducted to be able specific recommendations, but this is breakthrough stuff and something that could change the outcome of what mother and baby need along the way.

Selenium comes from soil. So it could be that in some regions where it's low in the soil, or moms don't get healthy foods, they are low in it.

If you've had a baby born prematurely and would like to be part of this prevention study, you can find a link for more information here.

This gene discovery is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was also supported by the March of Dimes.

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