In 2005, the March of Dimes began the Prematurity Research Initiative (PRI), which funds research into the causes of prematurity. More than $15 million has been awarded to 43 grantees over the past 6 years. Some PRI grantees are exploring how genetics or a combination of genetic and environmental factors may influence a woman’s chances of going into labor prematurely. Others are examining how infections may trigger early labor. One of every three premature births can be attributed an infection in a woman’s uterus, which may have presented with no symptoms.
Treating preterm labor –
PRI grantees also are exploring new ways to treat preterm labor. Some are studying how the body normally suppresses uterine contractions until a baby reaches full term, so that new drugs can be developed to prevent or stop preterm labor.
Saving preemies’ lives –
In addition to PRI support, the March of Dimes funds prematurity research through its national research program. Grantees are improving the care of premature babies by developing new ways to help prevent or treat common complications of prematurity. For example, researchers helped develop surfactant treatment, which has saved tens of thousands of premature babies with breathing problems.
Transdisciplinary research centers –
A novel approach to address the complex problem of preterm birth and the resulting prematurity is a transdisciplinary effort within which many diverse disciplines work together by integrating research. By working together, they can examine this problem from new perspectives in ways that individual studies do not allow. The March of Dimes has established the first transdisciplinary research center and plans to promote the establishment of several more.