A study published in the journal ‘Science Translational Medicine’ reports that scientists from the Stanford University have identified a molecule in the uterus that can be blocked to delay or halt premature birth. The identification of the molecule can help in curbing deaths and disability in the newborns.
More than 10% of all infants are born prematurely after less than 37 weeks of pregnancy whereas nearly 3% are born quite prematurely after less than 31 weeks of pregnancy. Normal pregnancies last between 38 and 42 weeks. However, there is a mystery behind the labour process which begins in the womb. At present, there is no effective treatment for premature labour. Previous researches have shown that the calcium levels of muscle cells within the uterus walls help control womb contractions.
In this case, researchers focused on TRPV4 molecule that controls the flow of calcium into cells. Scientists found that uterine tissue from pregnant women possessed higher levels of TRPV4 than non–pregnant women. Previous researches have shown that certain molecules could activate TRPV4 and prevent calcium from entering cells. During experiments, these molecules prolonged the premature labour in mice and therefore, scientists could use this to develop treatments to stop preterm labour in women.