Discovery May Help Pregnant Women Carry Babies to Full Term
For the first time, researchers have identified six genes that control the length of a pregnancy. And they say the genes may show whether or not a baby is born early.
Preterm birth -- when a baby is born too early -- is a large cause of disability and death among the very young.
Fifteen million babies worldwide are born too soon every year. Their lungs may be too small an d undeveloped. They struggle to breathe. Many of them die. For those who survive, problems from being born too early can affect them all their lives.
Preterm birth is the leading cause of death among children under the age of five years worldwide.
A pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. An infant is considered full term if the baby is born after 37 weeks in the mother's womb. One study found that a small number of babies born at just 22 weeks gestation have survived with medical treatment.
But even late preterm babies are more likely to die or experience problems, even if they are the size and weight of some full-term infants. Late preterm babies are ones born between 34 and 36 weeks of gestation.
Now, a group of researchers may have found a way to understand the causes of this complex disorder.
The researchers looked at the genetic structure in 50,000 pregnant women. It was the largest study yet of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. The study found six genes that seemed to control how long a baby would stay in the mother's womb.
Dr. Louis Muglia is the co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. He helped organize the study, and explains what the researchers found.
"For the first time, we have the clues that are going to lead us to rational ways of understanding a woman's risk for preterm birth."
Dr. Muglia says scientists have known for a long time that preterm birth involves a combination of genetic and environmental causes.
One of the newly identified genes is involved in how the body uses the mineral selenium. Selenium is found in soil, seafood and meat. It is also sold in some stores, but not currently included in vitamin supplements women usually take while pregnant.
Selenium supplements are low-cost. If the results of the study are confirmed, this could save millions of lives.
Supplements such as folic acid have been shown to greatly reduce birth defects. Folic acid, a B vitamin, is added to food in many countries to help prevent health problems.
Another finding is that the cells lining a woman's uterus have a larger-than-expected influence on the length of pregnancy.
This study showed that the genes thought to be responsible for the timing of the birth were from the mother.
"For the first time, we have an idea of what tissue in the mom is the one that's likely driving the one for preterm birth."
The March of Dimes provided money to help pay for the research. Stacey Stewart works with the non-profit group.
"We think this is an important breakthrough in finding solutions to end premature birth, which is the leading cause of death for children between the ages of zero and five and the leading cause of disabilities for babies."
The study does not provide any immediate solution for stopping preterm birth. But the discoveries may lead to new ways to prevent this disorder.
A final note: the researchers only tested women of European ancestry. They compared their findings to information from three different studies in Finland, Denmark and Norway. The studies pointed to the same six genes. The next step is to expand the research to include women from other races and ethnic groups.
I'm Anne Ball.
1.Preterm birth 早产
Preterm birth, Caesarean section and intrapartum complications were associated with neonatal death.
2.medical treatment 药物治疗
Several police officers received medical treatment for cuts and bruises.
3.the leading cause 主要原因
Homicide is the leading cause of death among black men.
4.pay for 为...付出代价；支付
I have had to pay for repairs to the house.
1.This study showed that the genes thought to be responsible for the timing of the birth were from the mother.
be responsible for 对...负责
I sometimes find it a strain to be responsible for the mortgage.
The storm is thought to be responsible for as many as four deaths.
2.For the first time, researchers have identified six genes that control the length of a pregnancy.
For the first time 第一次
For the first time in my career, I was failing.
He looked at me without speaking, and for the first time I could see the pride that filled him.
研究人员首次发现了影响孕期的6种基因 。他们称这些基因可能会显示婴儿是否早产 。
全球每年有1500百万婴儿早产 。他们的肺很小，没有发育完全 。他们很难正常呼吸 。因此很多早产儿死亡 。而幸存下来的婴儿，早产导致的问题也会影响他们终生 。
妊娠期通常为40周 。若婴儿在子宫内的生长周期达37周后出生即为足月生产 。一项研究表明，少数妊娠期只有22周的婴儿借助药物治疗才能存活下来 。
即使是身长和体重与足月婴儿无异的晚期早产儿也有可能死亡或面临诸多问题 。妊娠期只有34到36周的早产儿更容易死亡 。
他们观察了5万名孕妇的基因结构 。这是迄今为止DNA（脱氧核糖核酸）采集规模最大的一次的研究 。研究发现，有6个基因似乎控制着婴儿在母亲子宫中停留的期限 。
路易·穆格利亚（Louis Muglia）是俄亥俄州辛辛那提市儿童医院医学中心周产期研究所的主任 。他组织了这项研究并对此作出解释 。
新发现的基因涉及到人体如何利用矿物质硒 。土壤、海鲜和肉类中富含硒 。一些商店也出售含硒的食物，不过不包括怀孕期间孕妇服用的维生素补充剂 。
硒补充剂的价格便宜 。如果这项研究的结果得到证实，这将挽救数百万人的生命 。
叶酸等补充剂可很大程度上降低出生缺陷的概率 。叶酸是一种B族维生素，这一元素被很多国家添加到食物中以预防疾病 。
美国畸形儿童基金会为这项研究提供了资金支持 。斯戴西·斯图尔特（Stacey Stewart）是该非营利组织的成员 。
虽然研究没有提出避免早产的快速解决方案 。但这些发现可为避免这些疾病打开突破口 。
最后一点：研究人员只测试了欧洲血统的女性 。他们将研究结果与芬兰、丹麦和挪威的三种不同研究进行了比较 。这些研究都指出了同样的六种基因 。接下来他们将扩大研究范围，包括其他种族和民族的女性 。