Preterm birth by Filipino women linked to genetic mutational change

January 14, 2014 by Tina M Shelton
Mānoa: Preterm birth by Filipino women linked to genetic mutational change
Dr. Bryant-Greenwood in her lab at Kaka`ako

(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa have uncovered a genetic explanation for why Filipino women in the state have a higher chance of delivering their babies before full term.

Preterm birth is the leading cause of in the United States. Being born too early is not just detrimental to a baby's survival outside of the . It can also lead to health complications in the child including , , , neurological and . It is also now known that it makes them more prone to diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as adults.

Nearly 12% (11.7%) of women of Filipino descent in Hawai`i deliver their babies early compared to either white (7.2%) or other Asian populations (9.0%) in the state. The normal length of pregnancy is 40 weeks and the study focused on late (34 weeks to 36 weeks and six days).

The new research featured as the cover story in September's American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, found an association between a genetic variant in the DNA of Filipino women and higher levels of a hormone that increases the chances of preterm birth.

The article, "Genetic associations of relaxin: preterm birth and premature rupture of fetal membranes" was written by Frederico Rocha, MD; Thomas Slavin, MD; Dongmei Li, PhD; Maarit Tiirikainen, PhD and Gillian Bryant-Greenwood, PhD.

Researchers selected maternal blood, DNA, and tissue from the UH Biospecimen Repository. The repository contains a collection of samples from over 8,000 pregnant women in Hawai`i who volunteered over the last several years to assist in health research. Ninety-four patients met the inclusion criteria and could trace back their Filipino ancestry to all four of their grandparents.

The scientific team found a small genetic mutational change in the women's DNA was linked to the higher levels of the protein relaxin in the uterine cells.

"We were excited because there are very few studies which link genetics right the way through to the levels of a protein being expressed in the cells of interest," said Dr. Bryant-Greenwood from the JABSOM Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health. "Often people look at the genetics but they don't look at the effects of the genetics on the protein being produced in an actual cell type and that's why this is important."

"It's the protein which does the job," Dr. Bryant-Greenwood said.

What makes this development even more fascinating is that a previous study in Denmark showed that Danish women also carried this small change in their DNA, making them susceptible to preterm birth. This connection between the study on preterm birth in Danish women and Filipino women suggests that this is important in more than one population in the world.

Dr. Bryant-Greenwood hopes that with this new information, pregnant Filipino patients could potentially be offered a test to show if they were at high risk. In any event, she said, Filipino moms-to-be should be more carefully monitored.

Explore further: Preterm birth risk increases for pregnant women exposed to phthalates

More information: "Genetic associations of relaxin: preterm birth and premature rupture of fetal membranes." Frederico G. Rocha, Thomas P. Slavin, Dongmei Li, Maarit I. Tiirikainen, Gillian D. Bryant-Greenwood. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology - September 2013 (Vol. 209, Issue 3, Pages 258.e1-258.e8, DOI: 10.1016/j.ajog.2013.05.020)

Related Stories

Preterm birth risk increases for pregnant women exposed to phthalates

November 18, 2013
The odds of preterm delivery appear to increase for pregnant women exposed to phthalates, chemicals people are exposed to through contaminated food and water and in a variety of products including lotions, perfumes and deodorants, ...

Socioeconomic status key risk for premature births

December 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Women who live in poorer areas, are older mothers, smokers or are Aboriginal have a higher risk of having a preterm baby, according to a University of Sydney study published in the Australian and New Zealand ...

Smoking + asthma + pregnant = a dangerous combination

September 5, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—New research from the University of Adelaide has shown for the first time that pregnant women who smoke as well as having asthma are greatly increasing the risk of complications for themselves and their ...

Study finds residence in US a risk factor for preterm birth

February 9, 2012
In a study to be presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in Dallas, Texas, researchers will report findings that indicate that duration of stay in the United States ...

Low vitamin D levels during pregnancy associated with preterm birth in non-white mothers

October 30, 2013
African-American and Puerto Rican women who have low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy are more likely to go into labor early and give birth to preterm babies, research led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School ...

Understanding the mystery of preterm birth

November 12, 2013
Researchers at the University of Adelaide's Robinson Institute say there is still a lack of knowledge about the causes of preterm birth and what can be done to prevent it.

Recommended for you

Women exposed to smoke while in womb more likely to miscarry

July 13, 2017
Women exposed to cigarette smoke while in their mothers' wombs are more likely to experience miscarriage as adults, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

Lack of a hormone in pregnant mice linked to preeclampsia

June 30, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Singapore, the Netherlands and Turkey has isolated a hormone in pregnant mice that appears to be associated with preeclampsia—a pregnancy-related condition characterized by ...

Aspirin reduces risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

June 28, 2017
Taking a low-dose aspirin before bed can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth and, in extreme cases, maternal and foetal death.

The biology of uterine fluid: How it informs the fetus of mom's world

June 22, 2017
A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother's uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, ...

New clues in puzzle over pre-eclampsia and cholesterol regulation

June 21, 2017
Scientists studying a mystery link between the dangerous pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia and an increased risk of heart disease in later life for both mother and child have uncovered important new clues.

Are maternal hormones different when carrying a boy or a girl?

June 15, 2017
With advances in prenatal testing it's now possible to find out whether a pregnancy will result in a male or female baby as early as eight weeks' gestation.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

FromHopeToJoy
not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
This is very fascinating! My daughter Joy was born at 23 weeks last year. Due to modern medicine and prayers she is doing great today. I hemorrhaged at 17 weeks for the first of 4 times because of 100% placenta previa, which turned into placenta accreta (which I believe was caused by 3 prior c-sections). After she came home from 121 days in the NICU, I wrote a memoir called "From Hope To Joy" about my life-threatening
 pregnancy and my daughter's 4 months in the NICU (with my 3 young sons at 
home), which is now available on both the Amazon and Barnes&Noble websites. My mission is to provide hope to women struggling with
 high-risk pregnancies, encourage expectant mothers to educate themselves before 
electing cesarean deliveries, provide families of premature babies a realistic 
look at what lies ahead in their NICU journey, and show that miracles can 
happen, and hope can turn into joy.
 Please see my website a www.micropreemie.net or www.facebook.com/jenniferdegl

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.