In an attempt to discover potential factors influencing a woman’s risk for preterm birth, scientists from the Vanderbilt University, Washington University and the University of Helsinki conducted a study taking a closer look at human genes.
The study compared the length of gestation as well as the brain and body size at birth between humans and primates.. This study allowed the experts to posit that human gestation has become generally shorter through time.
If experts can identify the causes of premature birth, then treatments and proactive measures can be developed to help mothers achieve full term pregnancies, ensuring both the mother and infant’s health and safety. Said Professor Louis Muglia from the pediatrics department of Vanderbilt University, “Ideally we would like to predict which women are at greatest risk for having pre-term birth and be able to prevent it. That would really have an impact on infant mortality and the long-term complications of being born prematurely."
The researchers from the three universities may very well be on the brink of a scientific breakthrough, as they were able to identify “human accelerated” genes associated with the heightened risk for premature birth.
Professor Ronald Lamont, spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists points out as well that premature birth may likely be a combination of both environmental and genetic factors. "In the future we will be able to identify a percentage of people at risk. It won't be the be all and end all, but it will contribute to our knowledge."