Immune Cross-talk in Pregnancy & Preterm Birth

Developing refined tools to monitor the health of pregnancies and predict preterm birth

Full Project Name:Immune Cross-talk in Pregnancy & Preterm BirthPrincipal Investigator:Rashmi Sood, PhD, PathologyCo-Investigator:Meredith Cruz, MD, Obstetrics and Gynecology; Martin Hessner, PhD, PediatricsAward Amount:$200,000
Award Date
January2018
Project Duration:24 months

Project Description Narrative:


More than 10% of all pregnancies in Wisconsin result in preterm birth. Preterm birth is largely responsible for the city of Milwaukee's high infant mortality rate, and is disproportionately higher among African-Americans. Preterm babies have much greater risk of medical complications. Many suffer from long-term neurological problems resulting in physical, mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities. And while the emotional impact of these complications are difficult to measure, the financial impact has been estimated to be an extra $55 million for an average of 1,100 preterm births in Milwaukee alone each year.

Preventing premature birth and promoting health birth outcomes has repeatedly emerged as a top public health issue. As such, there is a need to develop insights into early molecular perturbations associated with preterm birth prior to the development of clinical disease. Through this award, researchers aim to develop refined tools to monitor the health of pregnancies, predict preterm birth and inform disease mechanism.

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


  • Established that there are differences in maternal plasma between pregnancies that result in preterm birth and those that have normal outcomes, and that these changes can be measured prior to clinical symptoms indicative of impending preterm birth
     
  • Established that the cell-based reporter assay can measure maternal plasma changes in terms of plasma transcription potential
     
  • Established that Heterologous Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells are suitable reporters to capture a slice of inflammation and immune-related changes in preterm birth
     
  • Documented results to validate that expression changes in three gene candidates may be predictive of disease, and the team is now poised to utilize results from this study to make and test predictive models
     
  • Developed strong collaborations and synergistic interactions critical to long-term sustainability of the project with the MCW Tissue Bank and the Global Alliance to Prevent Prematurity and Stillbirth (GAPPS) repository for the collection of samples, and among basic science and clinical investigators, leading to new projects focusing on gestational complications
     
  • Submitted three private and federal grant applications to further advance the work

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