1/8 Of Babies Are Born Preterm - Genetic “Databank” Launched To Find Out Why
Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and doctors at The Ohio State University Medical Center have joined forces to begin collecting samples from both premature babies - and their parents - in a fight to stop preterm births.
Every year, more than 50,000 babies are born premature in the United States. Despite the notable advances in neonatal care, these premature infants often suffer from preterm birth complications – the single largest cause of infant mortality. Although there is still no way to know for certain which babies will be born early, doctors now use genetic clues from babies and parents to better predict problems and develop therapies.
The idea behind the innovative new program, called the Ohio Perinatal Research Network (OPRN), is to take blood and urine samples from both parents and from a preterm infant to build a massive databank of genetic information.
“By collecting these specimens we hope to learn more to help us understand how to predict problems in a pregnancy,” says Mark Klebanoff, MD, MPH, director of OPRN at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
“Unfortunately, most premature babies are born to women who have not had problems with pregnancies in the past, or this may be their first pregnancy,” Dr. Klebanoff says.
By collecting and analyzing samples from both babies and their parents, experts here hope to uncover clues that may lead to causes for premature births, which unfortunately can have life-long consequences.
“These small babies born early simply do not do as well,” says Dr. Jay Iams, division of Maternal Fetal Medicine at OSUMC. “They more frequently have long-term health problems throughout their lives and often struggle with vision, hearing and respiratory function.”
Researchers with the OPRN hope to uncover clues such as which genes are active or dormant during pregnancy and what role certain proteins might play.
“There’s a lot we can learn from an ounce of blood and just a few ounces of urine,” Dr. Klebanoff says.
The genetic database will start at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Eventually, doctors hope it will include parents and babies from all over the country.
The Camp family of Dublin, Ohio has already contributed to OPRN to fight premature births. Erin and Todd Camp recently welcomed their son, Cade, into the family three months early, and they’re dedicated to helping researchers uncover clues that might help prevent what they went through.
Although Cade, who weighed just 2.5 pounds at birth, is getting healthier, the Camps are on alert now that they’re expecting a second child. They want to do all they can to avoid another preterm birth, so they’ve contributed samples to OPRN.
“If we can do our part to help future couples avoid what we went through, it’s well worth our time and our efforts,” Cade’s father Todd says.
*National Vital Statistics Reports, Volume 58, Number 22, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 2009, retrieved November 2010 from:
**Premature Birth Rates Improve In Most States, March of Dimes, November 2010. http://www.marchofdimes.com/nov17_2010.html
***QuickStats: Late Preterm Birth Rates, by Plurality --- United States, 1990, 2000, and 2006. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, retrieved November 2010 from: