Remarkable progress has been made in the prognosis for newborn over the last century. The infant mortality rate has decreased dramatically in the developed world thanks to multiple advancements in medicine. In the 1950s, more than 150 death per 1000 births occurred around the world. Today, this number is reduced to roughly 40. In developed countries less than 5 deaths per 1000 births is now common. But despite the obvious progress in infant care, it had not yet been known why preterm births happen.
Premature births are the number one contributor to infant mortality, and understanding the underlying causes is vital to tackle the issue and improve the life quality of all newborns. The first step in this direction has just been made. In a recent large-scale study, scientists discovered that premature births are predetermined by six specific genes.
The concept might seem ludicrous, but this study didn’t settle for half measures in its scrutiny of the genetic profile of pregnant women. To make this discovery, saliva samples from many thousands of pregnant (or previously pregnant) women were meticulously analyzed with the help of the genomics company 23andMe.
Scientists looked specifically at the DNA. This global study revealed that there are six distinct areas on the genetic code that are responsible for the occurrence of premature births. This discovery is of enormous scientific and medical value because it provides some concrete data with which medical researchers and doctors can plan better preterm management, as well as develop medications and other measures that could help prevent births in the 30th week in the future.
When the researchers analyzed all the data, they verified not only that preterm births are enabled by a genetic predisposition but also that the cells in the uterus itself might play a role in premature births.
Additionally, selenium deficiency was correlated with higher preterm risk. While premature deaths can have different causes, at least half of all preterm births could not be explained until now. This study has provided a new insight into the problem of premature births. Further work, however, will be necessary to enable the development of new treatments that take advantage of this new knowledge.
The end goal in this line of research is to safeguard the health and safety of the newborn. This is very relevant in developing countries where deaths caused by premature birth continue to be a significant problem to overcome. Prematurely born children are extremely vulnerable and susceptible to infections. As a result, they often get burdened with multiple health problems for the rest of their lives despite current medicine's best efforts to help them.
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