New Work Suggests Exosomes May Play Key Role in Labor & Delivery

A group of scientists led by Ramkumar Menon, PhD, at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) have gained new insight on a poorly-understood, but possibly key player in the timing of labor and delivery. This new information may bring scientists closer to being able to prevent preterm births. This study was published online on January 24, 2019 in Scientific Reports. The open-access article is titled “Exosomes Cause Preterm Birth in Mice: Evidence for Paracrine Signaling in Pregnancy.” According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 15 million infants are born too early each year. Complications from preterm birth are the leading cause of death among children under five years old, responsible for about one million deaths each year globally. In the U.S., approximately 1 of every 10 infants was born prematurely in 2017. When a woman is at the end of her pregnancy, the normal childbirth process begins when the fetus releases chemicals signaling that his/her organs have matured enough for delivery. This chemical release shifts the mother’s hormone levels, which increases inflammation in the uterus and begins labor and delivery. “There’s another component of the biological clock that contributes to the timing of birth – a type of cell-to-cell communication between the maternal and fetal cells called paracrine signaling,” said senior author Dr. Menon, UTMB Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Because little is known about what this type of signaling does during pregnancy, we investigated the role of paracrine signals called (editor’s note: carried by) exosomes in the timing of labor and delivery.” The researchers collected blood plasma samples from pregnant mice and isolated the exosomes.
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