REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Preventing Early Delivery

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Science  11 Nov 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6057, pp. 739
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6057.739-d

Preterm birth is a major cause of infant morbidity and mortality, but its causes are largely unknown. Understanding the causative events and identifying early signs are of interest in order to help develop effective therapies to prevent preterm labor and birth. Inflammatory processes function during labor, with leukocytes infiltrating the myometrium (middle layer of the uterine wall) and cervix. Hamilton et al. examined inflammatory events in the decidua, or endometrium of the pregnant uterus, which is at the maternal-fetal interface. They found that the number of macrophages was increased in women experiencing full-term or preterm labor. Other immune cell populations were elevated in women in preterm labor relative to full-term labor. A rat model of preterm labor revealed that macrophages infiltrated the rat decidua before labor onset, and decidual infiltration was greater and occurred earlier than myometrial infiltration. Decidual inflammation may therefore be an early event in labor and a possible target for therapeutic intervention.

Biol. Reprod. 85, 0.1095/biolreprod.111.095505 (2011).

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