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U.S. researchers have found that a gene mutation may lead to cellular and molecular changes in the uterus that can cause premature birth. Authors of the study believe that the recent findings could lead to new strategies for treating and preventing prematurity.
"Preterm birth and prematurity are problems that pose huge long-term social and economic liabilities, and there is an urgent need for research with new approaches to combat this public health concern," said Sudhansu Dey, director of reproductive sciences at Cincinnati Children's and the study's senior investigator.
In the study, scientists used lab mice to target signaling pathways that function during pregnancy and found that the mutation of a gene known as p53, often referred to as the guardian angel gene, may be responsible for the majority of early births.
Dey added that future studies on prematurity need to focus on p53 and the reproductive processes that it helps control. Premature births are responsible for nearly a third of all neonatal deaths in the U.S., costing approximately $26 billion per year, according to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine.
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