working under the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Grants have identified genetic markers that help predict the risk of premature birth.
Dr. Jerome F. Strauss III, dean of the Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine, found that African American babies are three times more likely than babies of European descent to have genetic variation of the SERPINH1 gene which results to the production of less collagen, and therefore weakened fetal membranes which contributes to an increased chance of premature rupture of the membranes and premature birth.
Dr. Xiaobin Wang, from the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on the other hand, discovered that a genetic variant of the prolylcarboxypeptidase gene is linked to incidence of preeclampsia, a condition that can develop around the 20th week of gestation, characterized by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia is a risk factor for premature birth.
It is believed that identifying the factors leading to preterm birth may help in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of premature birth.