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Researchers Identify Substance Protects Against Pre-Term Birth

Hyaluronan (HA), a critical substance made by the body that protects against premature births, caused by infection has been found by the researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

This is the first study to identify the specific role that hyaluronan (HA) plays in the reproductive tract, the researcher noted. Hyaluronan is a natural substance found in many tissues, and is both a lubricant and a beneficial component of eyes, joints and skin.

Being thought to play an essential role in increasing the cervix’s flexibility during the birth process by HA, the study that was conducted using mouse models showed that HA is not essential for increased cervical pliability during late pregnancy.

According to World Health Organisation, pre-term birth from infection is the leading cause of infant mortality in many countries. It estimates that about 1.09 million children aged less than five die from direct complications of being born prematurely.

“We found that HA is required to allow the epithelial lining of the reproductive tract to serve as the first line of defence against bacterial infections,” said senior author Mala Mahendroo, associate professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the US.

“Because of this action, HA offers cervical protection against the bacterial infections that cause 25 to 40 percent of pre-term births in women,” Mahendroo said.

Meanwhile, the previous studies by UT Southwestern reproductive biology researchers showed that HA is present in both the cervix and cervical mucus of pregnant women.

However, the first author of the study Yucel Akgul from University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, said, “This study demonstrates that HA plays a crucial role in the epithelial barrier as well as the cervix’s mucus. Our next step is to identify how exactly HA protects the cervix, which can have important clinical implications in the effort to reduce infection-mediated pre-term labour.”

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation


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