Congratulations to Irene Ong, PhD, of the UW Ob-Gyn Division of Reproductive Sciences, Aleks Stanic, MD PhD, of Reproductive Sciences and the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, and Chanel Tyler, MD, of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine! This multi-talented, multi-disciplinary research team received a grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to support their research into the role of innate lymphoid cells in preterm labor.
From the team’s research abstract:
“Preterm birth, as a consequence of preterm labor is a leading cause of maternal/fetal morbidity and mortality in the US and worldwide. At its root, preterm labor is thought to be a result of inappropriately inflammatory immune response in normal conditions or when responding to a microbial challenge. Despite this appreciation, exact immune cell responsible has remained elusive. Our preliminary data demonstrate that a dominant immune cell population (>70% of immune cells) at the maternal-fetal interface (decidual natural killer/innate lymphoid cells, henceforth dILCs) undergoes transcriptional programming in pregnancy resulting in less inflammatory response to stimuli. In this, highly innovative proposal, we aim to use cutting edge, single-cell technologies to unravel the anti-inflammatory dILC programming and to determine if failure of this process leads to preterm labor. Furthermore, the advanced single-cell sequencing, flow cytometry and computational/machine learning approaches will test the possibility that at least a subset of dILCs traffics through maternal blood, allowing for early detection of pregnancies at highest risk. Taken together, these studies will markedly advance the scientific and clinical understanding of normal pregnancy and preterm birth and open new targets for drug repurposing or development.”
The Preterm Birth Initiative was created to increase the understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying parturition and spontaneous preterm birth and will provide up to $500,000 over a four-year period ($125,000 per year).
The initiative is designed to stimulate both creative individual scientists and multi-investigator teams to approach the problem of preterm birth using creative basic and translation science methods. The formation of new connections between reproductive scientists and investigators who are involved in other areas will give preterm birth research a fresh and unique look, and stimulate a new workforce to tackle this challenge.