Approximately 5-10% of all babies born in Ireland are pre-term deliveries and in the Galway area the exact incidence is 6-7%, according to work published by the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at NUI, Galway.
Premature babies require long periods of hospitalisation in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and experience problems in relation to ventilation, infection, nutrition and overall development. It is known that these babies suffer high incidence of complications in childhood including chest complications, hearing and visual defects, developmental delay and cerebral palsy. Professor John Morrison at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, NUI, Galway together with Dr. Terry Smith of the National Diagnostics Centre, NUI, Galway have initiated and set up novel research with the aims of primarily outlining causes of premature labour at the gene expression level, and secondly developing new methods of treatment for pre-term labour.
This research has identified novel genes, which are switched on and apparently up-regulated at the time of human labour. Further evaluation of this gene expression will help to explain the cascade of events that lead to women going into labour early. In addition, this research has demonstrated that compounds related to this gene expression may be used in the treatment of pre-term labour.
This research, which is unique in Ireland, involves taking a minute biopsy from the muscle of the womb (called the myometrium) at Caesarean section, which is a strictly regulated procedure that is approved by the Ethics Committee at University College Hospital Galway. Tissue collection takes place in the hospital and the molecular and physiological research is carried out in the Clinical Science Institute (NUI, Galway Medical School) and in the National Diagnostic Centre on campus. This research is being funded by the HEA, the Health Research Board and the NUI, Galway Millennium Research Fund.
Professor John Morrison is available for interview on this subject.