COLUMBUS—Three major Ohio universities and four hospitals have joined with the March of Dimes Foundation to establish a new collaborative research program aimed exclusively at finding the unknown causes of premature birth. The March of Dimes intends to invest $10 million in the program over five years.
"The March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center—Ohio Collaborative is a unique research enterprise,” says Jennifer Howse, PhD, president of the March of Dimes. "This new transdisciplinary, team-based research model will leverage the expertise of leading scientists here in Ohio to discover breakthroughs in our understanding of premature birth. Extraordinary research requires extraordinary funding, and we are very grateful to the leadership of the GE Foundation for awarding the program’s first grant for $200,000.”
Partners in the research collaborative include:
• University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
• Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus.
• Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital and Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and MetroHealth System, Cleveland.
"This new research approach has assembled creative, accomplished and dedicated scientists to work together to generate innovative strategies to transform our understanding of causes of prematurity and use this knowledge to enhance obstetrical care and infant outcomes for Ohio and its residents,” says Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, co-director, Perinatal Institute, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and University of Cincinnati professor of pediatrics. "Too many babies, here in Ohio and throughout the United States, are born too soon, and this program will help prevent that.”
Muglia will serve as the coordinating principal investigator for the new collaborative.
"As a high-risk obstetrician for 40 years, I have seen first-hand the need and the benefits of creating such an important research collaborative,” says Steven Gabbe, MD, chief executive officer of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Our Ohio universities have some of the top maternal-fetal specialists in the nation, with impressive accomplishments in the study of preterm birth. By collaborating, we will discover innovative ways to reduce preterm births, thereby improving the lives of babies across our nation. This Ohio research team will develop ways to give every mother the ability to have a healthy, full-term baby.”
"The strength of the collaboration is that it brings together talented researchers with diverse expertise who share a common commitment to unraveling the causes of preterm birth,” says Sam Mesiano, PhD, an associate professor of reproductive biology at Case Western Reserve University, co-director of the research division at UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital and site director for the Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals and MetroHealth component of the collaborative. "The transdisciplinary approach will increase dramatically the rate of progress in understanding why some babies are born too soon. Ultimately our goal is to use this knowledge to develop effective therapies to prevent preterm birth and enable all pregnancies to proceed to full term. The promise of this work, and the people involved, are truly inspiring.”
Also participating in the program are investigators from Vanderbilt University, Dartmouth College, University of Iowa and Washington University in St. Louis.
To create the research collaborative, investigators from many disciplines will share information and create hypotheses to identify the many underlying causes of preterm birth, and translate new knowledge into new approaches to the prevention of premature birth.
Initially, the Ohio Collaborative will focus on five investigatory aims:
• Evolution of Human Pregnancy.
• Genetics of Unique Human Populations.
• The Molecular Developmental Biology of Pregnancy.
• Progesterone Signaling in Pregnancy Maintenance and Preterm Birth.
• Sociobiology of Racial Disparities in Preterm Birth.
Preterm birth is the most common, costly and a serious newborn health problem in the United States, affecting nearly 500,000 babies each year. One out of every eight babies in Ohio—more than 15,000 a year—is born preterm. Preterm birth is the leading cause of newborn death, and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifetime health challenges, such as vision and breathing problems, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities. Even babies born just a few weeks early have higher rates of hospitalization and illness than full-term infants.
In 2013, the March of Dimes celebrates its 75th Anniversary and its ongoing work to help babies get a healthy start in life. Early research led to the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines that all babies still receive with the March of Dimes providing Albert Sabin, MD, of UC and Cincinnati Children’s almost $1.2 million in funding from 1940 to 1960 to support his research. Other breakthroughs include new treatments for premature infants and children with birth defects. About 4 million babies are born each year in the United States, and all have benefited from the March of Dimes life-saving research and education.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies®, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.